10/7/08

Unions give back money to municipality

More AFSCME stories: hereMore union-dues stories: here

Workers get no reduction in union-dues, however

Although an employee union voted against returning money to Clovis to close the city's budget gap, the Clovis City Council voted Monday to make employees give back the money anyway.

The 147-member Clovis Employees Association, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, does not have a contract with the city. Under state law, because there is no existing contract, the city can unilaterally choose to take the givebacks, valued at $309,800 this budget year.

"The city can unilaterally put the givebacks into place," said Robert Ford, the city's general services director.

The council voted 5-0 to put the givebacks into place beginning next week.

About 60% of the group's members voted 76-12 Friday to reject the givebacks proposal.

All 460 city employees have been asked to give up about 4.34% each in salary and benefits instead of getting raises. The Clovis Employees Association has the largest number of members among the city's four unions. The city's contract with the union expired last year.

By approving the givebacks, the city also set new employment terms and conditions. While salaries and benefits will drop 4.34%, the city will add a death benefit, increase call-back pay and allow four additional paid leave days.

Harriet Lawlor, a business agent with AFSCME, said those were positive additions for the employees. But she also said the union's members are being asked to work four fewer paid days -- one day of unpaid furlough each quarter -- than members of the city's other three unions.

In September, the Clovis Police Officers' Association and Clovis Firefighters Association approved givebacks of 4.34% in salary and benefits, about $750,000.

City administration and council members made about $250,000 in concessions in June.

The city's general fund budget was balanced on the assumption that the concessions would be approved. If the concessions are not fully supported, the city may have to take more drastic measures -- possibly layoffs -- to balance the budget.

The Public Works Employees Association, which is being asked to give back about $95,000, has not approved concessions to make up the budget shortfall.

In addition to the employee "givebacks," the general fund is being balanced using $1.5 million in emergency reserves, reducing the city's rainy day fund to $2.7 million, or 5% of the city's general fund. The city has already cut programs and training and left some positions vacant.

(fresnobee.com)

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