From: Times-Herald Local News
Jessica A. York 10/05/13
Vallejo has reached bargaining impasse with its police union group, the Times-Herald has confirmed.
In a letter dated Sept. 27 and obtained by the Times-Herald, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom told retired Vallejo Police Officer Association members that the city had submitted its “last, best and final offer to the VPOA” on Sept. 20.
City Manager Dan Keen said Friday that the city had sent its retirees a letter a week ago, but declined to divulge details of that letter. He said that it was “not a good time to discuss” the issue.
“I’m not going to confirm or deny this,” Keen said. “I think we are going to maintain our policy … we’re not going to negotiate through the press.”
VPOA labor attorney Rocky Lucia disputed the city’s characterization of impasse, saying “I believe we have bargaining to do.”
“I believe that there is enough room with the city on issues that can come to some agreement,” Lucia said by phone Friday.
Lucia confirmed, however, that the city and VPOA last sat down for a formal “on the record” face-to-face negotiation session in July. He added that the city’s impasse determination came shortly after the union asked that a council member recuse him or herself from voting on the contract, due to alleged conflict of interest, but fell short of characterizing the city’s motives.
In its letter sent to retired police officers, the city is proposing a plan to reduce their medical coverage from 100 percent to a set monthly $300 benefit, effective Jan. 1, according to the letter.
Other city labor groups’ retirees facing this health care reduction already include the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1186 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2376, as well as retired City Council members and unrepresented employees.
The last labor group’s retirees — Confidential, Administrative, Managerial and Professional retirees — and employees hired after Jan. 1, 2010, are covered up to 80 percent of Kaiser’s Bay Area health coverage rate.
“Just because all the other city employees have faced what I would consider a substandard retiree medical benefit doesn’t mean that the police officers, who put their lives on the line every day, are willing to accept that,” Lucia said.
Vallejo officials included a $5.2 million revenue shortfall into this fiscal year’s budget, approved in June, with hopes that needed cash savings would come from the four ongoing contract negotiations with city labor groups.
During negotiations, the city was allegedly asking for $4.5 million in concessions from VPOA, while at last count a $3.7 million compromise was on the table, according to a letter written to members by VPOA President Mat Mustard, obtained by the Times-Herald.
“I don’t want you to think for a minute, I don’t want the citizens to think for a minute that these cops are unmindful of financial struggles of the city of Vallejo,” Lucia said. “We recognize that there has to be a sacrifice by the members of the police department — and they’re willing to do that. The question is, to what degree is the city going to extract concessions.”
Mustard’s letter indicated plans to hold an informal negotiation session with the city in late September. Lucia would not confirm whether any such discussions had occurred.
Lucia said VPOA made a formal demand to reopen negotiations by Friday in a response to the city’s declaration of impasse, Lucia said.
“If we don’t get a response that we think is appropriate, we’re going to be going to Superior Court,” Lucia said. “I’m going to be optimistic and hopeful that the city will see the error of their ways and return to the bargaining table.”