Mar. 28, 2012 | Representatives for city employee unions in Hayward took the unusual stance of publicly shedding light on what they charge is the city’s attempts to force them under threat of layoffs to accept steep cuts in wages.
Employees speaking at Tuesday’s City Council meeting say they have offered concession over the past five years and are willing to help solve the deficit, but the city’s latest hard line stance, union leaders say, has alienated workers. The city expects a $14 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year and was followed by a $20 million shortfall last year.
Josie Camacho, the executive secretary for the Alameda County Labor Council, says unions have readily approved reductions in benefits and wages in the past, “yet that is not good enough.” Camacho says city leaders are not willing to guarantee no layoffs in exchange for concessions. “The approach of my way or the highway isn’t going to get us anywhere,” she said.
Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney maintained “our door continues to be open,” but also reiterated the council’s stance in balancing its budget with additional help from city workers. “Without assistance from employees the city may be hampered in its ability to provide the high level of services that the citizens of Hayward expect and deserve,” said Sweeney. “The council understands that SEIU has stated they are not interested in making any changes to employee compensation packages in the next year.”
“We have responded by taking zeroes,” said one union member who works for the Hayward Police Department. “We have gone without raises, without COLAs. How have we given back?” she asked while citing nearly four years of furloughs amounting to five percent of wages, among other reductions in compensation.
Union leaders Tuesday night opened a window into negotiations that paints the city as unwilling to faithfully bargain. Bob Britton, a representative of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said employees have already given much to help the city’s continuing fiscal problems. He cited a previous offer of nearly 10 percent in wage reductions as not sufficient to city negotiators who did not bend from 15 percent. Britton said the city’s offer includes no guarantees they will not issue layoff notices even if concessions are approved by its members.
He also called the city’s attempt to negotiate “disingenuous” and detailed a city proposal “that had nothing to do with fiscal problems,” Britton said. “They just viewed it as a chance to attack the unions.” He said City Manager Fran David, a frequent critic of the unions, took the proposal off the table and offered to not reopen the current contracts or aim to extend it another two years. He contends, though, that the city nonetheless maintained its demand for a 15 percent cut. “It don’t think our members are willing to go that far,” said Britton. “What is the inducement?”