Union In Firefight With City Of Carlsbad

by The Editors on May 18, 2010

Carlsbad FirefightersAt a Carlsbadistan City Council hearing tonight (Tuesday, May 18, 2010) the Carlsbad Firefighters Association will either get more time to discuss their issues with city official, or City Council will give the union a final offer that could effect 63 of the 85 fire department workers, according to a Ray Huard story in the North County Times.

Under the proposed plan, newly hired workers could retire at age 50 and collect a pension equal to 2 percent of their wages for every year they worked. The change wouldn’t apply to association members already working in the department, [city spokeswoman Kristina Ray] said.

Apparently, the CFA isn’t happy with that. We’re not sure who is right, but we know this–the people in the city who should be well paid fall into three groups in our opinion: teachers, firemen, and police officers.

Follow the jump for the City’s side of the story.

[Link: North County Times]
Hearing scheduled for Carlsbad Firefighters’ contract

After nearly five months of labor negotiations, the Carlsbad City Council and the Carlsbad Firefighters’ Association have come to an impasse. As a result, the City Council will hold a hearing Tuesday, May 18, to discuss the terms and conditions of employment for the Carlsbad Firefighters’ Association, which represents most of the city’s Fire Department employees.

“I wish we could have come to an agreement, but at this time the City Council must take the action we feel is in the best interest of the city and the community,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, mayor of Carlsbad. “This year’s difficult contract negotiations are a reflection of the tough times we are in and do not in any way diminish the appreciation and respect we have for the work of our employees.”

The city and the Carlsbad Firefighters’ Association representatives began labor negotiations Nov. 23, 2009. After meeting and exchanging proposals over the course of several months, they were not able to reach an agreement. In March, when city representatives determined that all possibilities of an agreement had been exhausted, they started an impasse procedure.

An impasse meeting with the city manager was held April 30 to review both positions and try to reach an agreement. At the end of the meeting, the city manager concluded that significant differences still existed between the parties and that the process had reached a point where future negotiations would be futile.

According to the rules that govern the city’s employer-employee relations, the City Council may resolve an impasse in labor negotiations by holding a hearing where both sides can present the merits of their positions, followed by public comment. The City Council may then ask questions, deliberate and either send the parties back for further negotiations or impose its last, best and final offer. The imposed terms and conditions would be effective Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2010. At the end of the year the negotiation process would start again.

If imposed, the city’s last, best and final single year offer would provide no salary increase and would include changes to what Carlsbad Firefighters’ Association members pay for their retirement benefits. Starting May 31, 2010, members of the Carlsbad Firefighters’ Association would pay 9 percent of their salary toward their retirement benefits. They currently pay 1 percent, and the city pays 8 percent.

The imposed terms and conditions also would include the creation of a second tier retirement plan. The benefits in the retirement plan for current employees cannot be changed, but the city can create a different plan, often referred to as a second tier plan, for new employees. This new plan or “second tier” would provide a “2 percent at 50” retirement benefit, instead of the existing “3 percent at 50” benefit for employees starting on or after Oct. 4, 2010.

Under the second tier plan, employees retiring at age 50 would receive 2 percent of their salary for every year of employment. The benefit increases for employees working longer, to a maximum of 2.7 percent at age 55. The retirement benefit would be calculated using an average of the employee’s salary for the highest consecutive 36 months of employment at the city. Employees under the second tier plan would also pay the full 9 percent contribution toward their retirement plan.

The imposed terms and conditions also would allow the city to put a charter amendment on the November 2010 ballot prohibiting future increases in the “2 percent at 50” retirement benefit without voter approval. The ballot measure would require a simple majority to pass.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Thomas K. Arnold May 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I agree wholeheartedly that teachers, firefighters and police should be well paid. I keep hearing radio talk shows blasting California teachers for making $75,000 a year and I’m thinking that’s low, not high–if software engineers are making $100,000, $125,000, teachers–and, for that matter, police and firefighters–should be making at least that, as well. But on the pension end, there’s a definitely problem. The retirement packages are entirely too liberal and are simply not sustainable. They will ultimately bankrupt the city, as they have already done in the city of Vallejo. The unions need to be realistic and not take a hard-line approach. Sure, they want to keep their benefits, but if the cities can’t afford them, they need to compromise and be realistic and give an inch or two. That’s my whole problem with the public unions–they have become arrogant and self-righteous and fail to take a realistic approach to the matter.

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