From: Times-Herald Local News
Jessica A. York 10/18/13
Vallejo’s police officers union has filed suit in Solano County Superior Court to compel the city back to the bargaining table.
Filed Tuesday, the suit comes within weeks of news that Vallejo had declared an impasse in the labor negotiations after more than a year of on-and-off talks.
The union is asking the court to declare that the Vallejo Police Officers Association members and its retirees have a “vested constitutional right” to full health care coverage — up to a local Kaiser plan’s limits — among other rights, according to the union’s court filing.
“(The city’s) premature declaration of impasse … violated the duty to bargain in good faith,” VPOA attorney Rockne “Rocky” Lucia wrote in the suit.
The city plans to oppose the lawsuit, according to a press release the Vallejo city manager’s office issued Thursday. The city has presented a “last, best and final” offer, the conditions of which the city can temporarily implement for up to a year after an impasse is declared, the release said.
City Manager Dan Keen is quoted as saying that city negotiators would have preferred that talks continue without the lawsuit, but that it was time to call for impasse.
“This lawsuit does not shake the city’s commitment to good faith discussions,” Keen says. “We are hopeful that the parties can come to an agreement through the statutory impasse resolution process which is about to begin. We value and respect our Vallejo police officers, and we’re determined to work through this.”
Chief among VPOA’s complaints against the city, as listed in the court filing, is the city’s plan to reduce retiree health care coverage from 100 percent to $300 a month. The city has already made a similar move with its other labor groups.
The civil complaint notes that police officers have contractually received full health care in contracts since at least 1988, making it a “constitutionally protected” benefit.
Other VPOA concerns include a proposed 5 percent salary cut, removal of sick leave conversion to cash for VPOA members hired before Feb. 1, 2009 and elimination of longevity pay. The city also is asking VPOA members to contribute more toward their retirement benefits and the dismissal of the third of three $333,334 bankruptcy-negotiated settlement payments. New employees would also see a reduced pension calculation plan.
Vallejo is facing a $5.2 million deficit in this year’s budget if ongoing employee group negotiations do not make up the difference in labor give-backs. VPOA negotiators offered to carve out a $4 million savings on pay and benefits during talks, according to a VPOA press release also issued Thursday.
An officer pay cut would further hinder city efforts to recruit new employees to the police department’s more than two dozen vacancies and “be devastating to the safety of our officers and our citizens,” the release states.
Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom, who has been involved with employee negotiations, said Thursday that the city has only just received notice of the lawsuit and had no further comment. He said he was unsure how long the city will have to respond to the VPOA filing.