City taps reserves to give SEIU more

After about four months of negotiations, a labor agreement between the city and its largest bargaining group is set for Santa Maria City Council review this week.

The city and the Service Employees International Union Local 620 had been in contract talks since September before hammering out a proposed contract that includes changes to salary and benefits.

The first year of the two-year deal offers a 5-percent salary increase, with an additional 5-percent increase the second year, according to the proposal. Also included is language that the city will begin paying toward employee dental coverage, a benefit that was never included before.

The proposal has already been ratified by union members and is scheduled to be before the council Tuesday as part of the consent agenda. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 110 E. Cook St.

“We reached a fair contract and it was ratified by our members and got an overwhelming vote from them saying yes,” said SEIU chapter chairperson Daniel Vegezzi. “So it was good.”

Full-time employees represented by the SEIU are coming off a three-year contract, and the newly organized part-time employees are coming off a one-year agreement. Both contracts expired Dec. 21.

“We are pleased with the results of the negotiations,” said Bruce Corsaw, SEIU representative. “I think the city did a good job, I think the union did a good job.”

Corsaw noted that the city takes pride in its low employee-to-resident ratio, adding that many of those numbers are kept down through the work of SEIU employees.

“Our membership makes that happen, and I believe the council recognizes that and addressed that accordingly in negotiations,” Corsaw said.

The proposal before the council covers both full-time and part-time employees, and is set to expire Dec. 18, 2009.

The entire package, which covers about 300 employees, is expected to cost the city an additional $556,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to the council's written staff report.

About half of the cost is expected to come from the general fund and will be paid for through reserves.

This is the first of a series of contracts expected to come before the council in the coming months.

The city is in talks with the Firefighters Local 2020, the Santa Maria Police Officers Association, public safety managers and nonrepresented management and confidential employees.

The 42-member Local 2020 is coming off a three-year contract that is set to expire in February, and the 134-member SMPOA just finished up a one-year deal that expired in December.


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