Wage cuts Vacaville wants are OK, report says

By From page A5 | August 27, 2014

VACAVILLE  — Wage concessions proposed by the city are appropriate, a mediator says of Vacaville and Local 39 – a finding the union disputes.

Mediator Paul Roose said in his advisory findings, posted Monday on the city’s website, that all other bargaining units agreed to concessions equivalent to what the city proposes for Local 39, the engineers local of about 90 members in the Public Works and Utilities departments.

“This includes the police and fire unions, organizations that traditionally have ‘most favored nation’ status in local government labor relations,” Roose wrote in the Aug. 15 findings and recommendations.

The mediator in his 14-page ruling added that the city’s proposal to the engineer’s local is not a measured response because the municipality proposed to condense two years worth of concessions into 10 months.

“Due to the sheer size of the sacrifice being asked, this creates an untenable short-term pay reduction for Local 39’s members,” Roose wrote. “Should the city implement its proposal as submitted to the fact-finding panel, it would result in a pay cut of over 20 percent for a period from Sept. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015.”

The city in April made its last, best and final offer to Local 39 to settle outstanding issues, Roose recounted. Local 39 sought the fact-finding review.

Steve Crouch, district manager for Sacramento-based Local 39, dissented from the mediator’s finding.

“He is apparently motivated by a desire to have Local 39 members ‘share the pain’ experienced by members of other bargaining units,” Crouch wrote. “No working person believes that the standard for workers should be the lowest common denominator.”

Crouch said Tuesday that Vacaville is healthy financially but still seeks wage reductions of between 8 and 11 percent.

The 8 percent cut represents the loss of $600 to $700 a month in pay for Local 39 members, Crouch said. The $1.5 million the city would realize from concessions would go to a municipality that already has healthy reserves, he said.

“That money was just going to go in the bank,” Crouch said.

He said the union has more than 100 contracts with local government in Northern California and that 99 percent involve pay increases of between 2 to 3 percent over the next three years.

Asked why Vacaville seeks pay cuts, Crouch said, “I struggle with that every night.”

The city seems to think it’s still 2008-10 when the country was in a recession, he said. Local 39 is an AFL-CIO union known for thoroughly questioning employers, Crouch added.

Mark Mazzaferro, Vacaville’s spokesman, said matters including city pensions leave the municipality with more than $200 million in unfunded liabilities.

“Our goal with the operation of the city is to stay fiscally solvent,” he said. “We’re not looking at today. We’re looking at tomorrow and beyond.”

He said of Roose’s fact-finding that, “Overall we agree with the basic principles of his report.”

Mazzaferro said the city will continue to meet with Local 39 representatives to reach an agreement.

Roose wrote that the city has made certain conservative assumptions about its expenditures that may or may not pan out.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 24 comments

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  • Jeremy ClarkeAugust 26, 2014 - 10:18 pm

    This report omits the fact that the Local 39 members have gone almost 7 years without a raise, much of the time with pay concessions. Also, the great majority of those represented by local 39 here are funded by Enterprise, not the General fund that the city is using to justify the cuts. When this was brought to the cities attention during bargaining they acknowledged that was true, but everyone needed to "share the pain". This is greed, not need. One last point, the report did not say the cities cuts where "ok". The cities last, best and final offer was a 20%+ cut. The report indicates that is excessive.

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  • Stop City Council!August 29, 2014 - 10:42 am

    Join our FB page movement to stop City Council! https://www.facebook.com/StopVacavilleCityCouncil?ref=hl

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  • Time For TruthAugust 27, 2014 - 7:11 am

    It's nice to see at least one association stand up against the tyrants on the City Council/City Administration. Some association leadership (you know who I'm talking about) couldn't sell out their members fast enough when the City asked them too. "This is the best deal you'll ever get; vote for it and shut up." Stand firm, Local 39! If the City wants employees, then by golly they should pay for employees! (The City could always contract out emergency transport services... that'll save a ton of cash.)

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  • It's not "ok"August 27, 2014 - 1:34 pm

    Even though fire and police had wage reductions, the city is also penalizing the people whose wages are quite low compared to fire and police departments. For someone who is making a house payment, paying child support, and having to survive making a living in the Public Works and Utilities departments, the wage reduction is quite unfair. A $600 to $700 a month reduction is a huge blow! I don't think that any of the city council members are willing to give up that much money per month just so that their employer, the City of Vacaville, can be financially sound for the future. If you take a look at the report itself, the report also fails to mention that there aren't any other groups in the area that services public vehicles, which include fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and city vehicles. The Public Works and Utilities departments are a crucial part of what makes the City of Vacaville run a little more smoothly than other cities. The reporter of this article needs to go over the facts again and not be so biased towards the City of Vacaville. It is NOT "ok" to rip off the hard working men and women of the Public Works and Utilities departments.

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  • Lynn HenricksonAugust 27, 2014 - 6:25 pm

    Just curious how much money the average pay is for these folks, per month? If they are being cut 600-700 a month.

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  • Vacaville ResidentAugust 27, 2014 - 10:49 pm

    Your concern shouldn't be how much they make but with what they do for your city.

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  • It's not "ok"August 27, 2014 - 11:20 pm

    So, is it right that you, Lynn Henrickson, worry more about what the workers make instead of what the workers will lose if the city makes its cuts? Have you thought of what will happen to the workers families and children if this goes through??That seems to be a selfish and shameful way to go, if you ask me.

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  • Vacaville city employeeAugust 28, 2014 - 1:26 pm

    The approximate wage is about $4000 take home a month. So with a $600 to $700 pay cut, it makes people unable to pay their mortgage. It also causes families to suffer. I personally support a family of four and with these pay cuts, it will require my wife to find a job which is difficult to do when all her paycheck will cover the cost of daycare. But like an earlier comment mentioned, our wages are paid from a complete different account. The money they are trying to build up isn't affected by our wages.

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  • LilAugust 28, 2014 - 5:55 pm

    I get paid about the same (4,000 take home) but my total pay is actually a lot more. So how much is your gross wages a month? That is what the 600-700 is coming from not your take home pay. You may have listed 0 dependents on your w4 so that you can get a lot of money at the end of year or maybe you have some kind of huge voluntary deductions. I don't know. What is your pension like? How early do you get to retire and how much will you get? What's your medical like? How much of your pay is going towards that? Maybe your retirement is so cushy and that is where your pay is going. Maybe you get completely free health care and rising expenses in that area might be why they want to cut your pay. You give a very incomplete picture of what you get from your employer. Your pay is not just how much you deposit in your bank every week. Not saying you guys deserve a pay cut or not. But with the information given it is not possible to know who to side with.

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  • Another citizen also employeeAugust 29, 2014 - 11:46 am

    L Lil you as so many others believe the false hood that all city employees have some cushy retirement that only the city pays for.The truth is: different labor groups have different retirements the classic public works employees have a 2% @ 55 plan with PERS and a .7% plan with PARS contrary to popular belief it is not and has not been fully funded by the City for decades. At minimum employess in public works contribute 9% of thier gross base income to the cost of that single benefit, then there are the other benefits they share cost of. So an example: some one who retires making the average $55K/yr after 20 years of service will gross about $29,700/year retirement which is only $2,475/month. Where I work in the City there are positions which require very highly skilled, educated individuals which insure all citizens have treated clean drinking water delivered to thier homes and a complex system to collect and treat each home and bussiness' waste. The current ammounts these individuals are paid is already below the the positions mean (they make less than others doing the same sort of work in the surrounding areas.) I am in a diiferent bargaining group and I can attest to you that the combined cost of all of my benefits out of my paycheck is over 50% of the gross and the portion the City pays is an EARNED BENEFIT which I work hard for everyday just the same as I earn my paycheck. Both benefits and pay were a contracted ammount the used to entice me to change jobs years ago which BTW i took a pay cut to come here to be closer to home/family.

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  • GroupadminAugust 27, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    BUT WAIT................ Solano County supervisors have received a 1.83 percent raise, boosting their annual base salaries to $97,843.

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  • Vacaville residentAugust 28, 2014 - 6:21 pm

    It's unreasonable for any person that works hard for a living to take a 20% pay cut. Stop for one second of your life, and think what it would be like losing 20% of your pay. These people have family's, I can't imagine what it would be like taking a 20% pay cut from my income. Good luck to those affected.

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  • B. HorstAugust 28, 2014 - 7:28 pm

    Everyone on the outside always judges without thinking of the families involved & the impact. Not always do both husband & wife work. No cost of living for so long, yet utilities, food, gas & everything has more than doubled. With all the furlough days and other past adjustments for salaries takes a personal family toll. Now the union can't come up with an amicable plan. Very frustrating!!!

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  • back at ya lilAugust 28, 2014 - 7:45 pm

    Our city council ....... They way i see it they have raised our taxs , raised our water rates , bought a broke military road side bomb vehicle to serve search warrants , cut building permit costs for large home building contractor .Then try and take 21% from the average working man under the phraise we might not have a good economy 10 years from now .All they while sitting on millions in the bank .not bad for 4 yrs of work .Makes you wonder how much it costs to have a arbitrator side with a city ... Bet it wasnt cheap..way to go home town Vacaville .I imagine next the police and for will be up for a nice pay adjustment ..

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  • Concerned ResidentAugust 29, 2014 - 7:59 am

    To think that the local 39 people are going to receive 20% pay cut and they haven’t seen a raise or a COLA in 7 years is absurd. Work 5 days a week but get paid for 4 of them is crazy. The golden boys (and girls) in police and fire need to take the disastrous pay cut. They are well overpaid. Vacaville police officer starts entry level at over 8,000 more a year than an Oakland officer. And Oakland is way more dangerous than Vacaville. Iam sick of seeing the firefighters driving around aimlessly and stopping off at the grocery store for BBQ supplies and going to Golds Gym every day. They have workout equipment at every fire station they can use. The city council lets police and fire get what they want…because they have their brethren on the council. This city is doing fine financially with over 16 million in reserves and they want to come after local 39. Look at all the new buildings, houses, restaurants, icon aircraft and other stuff. Our sales tax revenue has got to be off the charts…but we are still broke and need to pick on local 39? Weather the other unions/bargaining units settled is not related to us. Every barraging unit is independent. Every other city in the immediate 20 or 30 mile radius is not getting gouged like this and most are getting raises.

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  • An EmployeeAugust 29, 2014 - 11:22 pm

    Local 39 employees are Water Operators, Wastewater Plant Operators Plant Mechanics, Field Utilities, Parks, etc. We are the people who make sure Vacaville residents have safe drinking water that meets Federal and State regulations. We are the people who make sure sewer water gets treated and safe to discharge to the local creek. We are the people who repair water mains and maintain backflow devices. We work in the background but are major players in keeping the public health and safety of the citizens of Vacaville. It is easy to take it for granted because everything works - we are doing our jobs. To take 20 off our pay is harsh. It is harsh without considering that we are subjected to potential infections from sewer water, hazardous chemicals and dangerous equipment. City of Vacaville have a heart!

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  • Rick WoodAugust 30, 2014 - 4:29 am

    It's unfair, wrong, and maybe even stupid to treat employees the same who are paid from Enterprise funds and not the General Fund. But the "share the pain" excuse can be used both by the union and the city management. The first step is for the union and it's General Fund-funded members to make the separation during collective bargaining. Has that happened in Vacaville? Fairfield took the "share the pain" argument so far that it put water plant operators, who work 24/7 just like police and fire, on furloughs for four years. It meant the city had to hire more operators and/or pay more overtime. No cost savings and a recruitment/retention problem completely avoidable. But the union wouldn't make the separation, and the city wasn't smart enough to not accept the invitation.

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  • Paul ErskineAugust 30, 2014 - 9:12 am

    The Waste Water Treatment Plant Operators, Union 39 is being asked to take a pay cut of 22% cut. I think this is outrageous. They should go on strike! Two weeks into the strike the city says they will hire strike breakers,(scabs). How many State violations will be caused by these people? How much money will the city pay out? My guess would be the Cities' 16 million dollar surplus will be reduced. The City would do well if they took all the cuts they plan for Vacaville employees off the table and thought about giving them a small raise. We the city of Vacaville have really good employees and we need to take good care of them. Vacaville Resident, Paul Erskine

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  • CD BrooksAugust 30, 2014 - 10:41 am

    Mr. Erskine, going on strike in today's climate is risky at best. Of course the city will hire new people and yes, quality will suffer. Hint: They don't care! Something is better than nothing.

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  • AubreyAugust 31, 2014 - 9:35 am

    This article makes it sound like all the other groups accepted a 20% paycut, they didn't. Everyone else only had an 11.5% cut which local 39 disputed.

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  • Uh OhSeptember 03, 2014 - 11:07 pm

    Seems like Local 39's negotiator and rep did a poor job initially when they chose not to accept the 11.5% proposal made by the city over a year ago. Based on recent Facebook activity, it also appears the rep isn't keeping the members of the union & their families fully informed of what's been going on. The city's most recent proposal is merely an attempt to fit the same (almost 11.5%) concession into the initially proposed timeline ending June 30, 2015 - after more than a year of delay caused by the union. I can't believe that squeezing it into 10 months was what each member of city council wanted, but it was all that was left to propose after many months of souring negotiations. We saw this with Recology too. Nobody on city council wanted another waste management company to come in, but when corporate in SF refused to even answer the city's requests to renegotiate their contract, the city was forced to send out an RFP which finally made Recology renegotiate. The 11.5% concession over the originally proposed 2-year period would have been a much softer blow to Local 39's paychecks, while still being fair to other labor unions that conceded similar amounts. Concessions are obviously a sticky subject, and having every union on board with the city's fiscal plan is essential to future growth and stability. Giving in now, and having every other union say "why didn't we get special treatment?" and hold out when their contract is up for renegotiation, is something the city truly can't afford. And the FB page and protest tactics currently being employed by Local 39 supporters are rather premature.... it's not like this is set in stone. Local 39 can still choose to come back to the table and work out a better deal with better timelines (I've even heard a 3-year timeline was proposed by the city but declined by Local 39). One thing is for sure - cuts will eventually be made. It's extremely rare for a union to come out on top in contract concession disputes with a city, especially when they're the odd man out. As they've already seen, continuing to hold out can only hurt them. Choosing to personally attack council members instead of speaking with their union rep isn't likely to help them either. Honey over vinegar.

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  • Uh Oh...Hell NoSeptember 04, 2014 - 1:43 pm

    That is an interesting perspective you have. Unfortunately, it appears to me that you have been given some misinformation yourself. Perhaps the City’s negotiating team has been updating you with the same information they have been feeding the City Council. One might wonder after reading this article and the associated comments, why has the Vacaville City Council chosen to go to the bargaining table with each and every union asking for wage concessions and / or employer portion of retirement contribution pickups during this economic recovery? According to the Council, their main goal in all of this is to build up their General Fund Reserve to a level they feel is sufficient enough to see the City through any future recession such as the one we all recently experienced. Fair enough. I think we can all see the benefit of having a healthy savings account. The easiest way for the Council to accomplish this was to ask for, and eventually threaten to take, concessions from their various employee labor groups. We all know that the Cops, Fire, and Administrative staff are the largest expense the General Fund has. Consequently, the Council started with these groups. This makes sense. Get your largest drains on the General Fund plugged. Local 39, however, was placed on the back burner. The City did continue to negotiate with Local 39, but there was no sense of urgency. The reason this was the case is because the vast majority of Local 39 membership is funded from the ENTERPRISE fund. Any savings to the Enterprise Fund realized through employee concessions CANNOT be transferred to the General Fund or its Reserve. That is against the law. If a person was to take the time to refer to the recent fact finding report published on the City website, they would see that the City is demanding a $1.5 million concession from Local 39. Of that $1.5 million concession, around 16% or $240,000 would go back to the General Fund. The City Council seems to believe that benefit to the General Fund Reserve is sufficient enough to financially ruin 90 of their hardest working and most skilled tradesman and women. The City Council will argue that the other 84% of the concessions go back to the Enterprise Fund which will help the Water portion that is slightly underfunded. Meanwhile, they continue to spend money hand over fist on unnecessary Water projects such as upgrading their treatment systems at the Water Treatment Plant and Well sites. Feather in the cap projects paid for by blue collar families. If the City Council truly wants to soften the blow to Local 39 membership, they should vote on 09/09/14 to not impose these unnecessary concessions and leave the union’s membership at the 2007 level wages they are now earning. Status quo, or 2007 level wages, is all the Local 39 membership is asking for. Not raises, benefit increases, or any other perks. At some point the City Council should perform a cost benefit analysis and come to their senses. These cuts are so much more about keeping their other bargaining units (Cops, Fire, Admin) happy by forcing concessions to everyone than financially benefitting the City. The City should choose to delineate between funding sources, rather than lump all their employee groups in one basket. We are all not the same and our concessions don’t all help the City in the same way.

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  • CitizenSeptember 02, 2014 - 7:56 pm

    The city wants to save money? How about contract out paramedic service that will save several million dollars. This city doesn't need every firefighter to be a paramedic. This city should also lay off the enterprise account like its their own personal piggy bank. Managers are beyond overpaid. To many chiefs not enough Indians. :|

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  • Rick WoodSeptember 04, 2014 - 3:22 pm

    So I gather from these comments that Local 39 members are mostly Enterprise funded. They are fortunate to have their own bargaining unit. It allows them to expose the "share the pain" argument as specious and purely political. To justify compensation reductions, the City should be compelled to do a compensation study showing Local 39 members are above market rates. If they are, fine, make that argument and go from there. If they are not, then make the argument that rates are too high and ratepayers can't afford it.

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