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Fiscal Year 2013 Contract Negotiations Update

On March 6, your MEA Negotiating Team exchanged initial offers with the City for a one-year contract for FY 2013. The City’s offer essentially amounted to a “status quo” proposal in terms of compensation – meaning the reductions implemented in 2009 remain in effect. The City’s offer also included the elimination of the SPSP waiver option because of the IRS ramifications uncovered last year such that all MEA-represented employees would be required to take the 52-hour unpaid furlough. In addition, the City made a number of other more minor economic and non-economic proposals. In support of its position, the City argued that, despite recent improvements in the City’s budget situation, there are still too many economic and budget “uncertainties” which threaten the City’s fiscal health in the near-term and that any restoration of compensation cuts would have to be done across all bargaining groups with each 1% costing $6.8 million City-wide.

In sharp contrast, MEA’s opening bargaining demand includes a partial restoration of the 6% compensation reduction agreed to by employees in 2009, as well as a number of other economic and non-economic proposals. We argued that in fact the City was underestimating the strength of its budget situation, and that the end of the City’s decades-old structural budget deficit (as recently announced by Mayor Sanders) was achieved because of the substantial economic sacrifices by City employees and their families. These sacrifices have taken the form of pay freezes followed by compensation reductions – and often more demanding workloads. Accordingly, your Negotiating Team argues that, just as a “targeted” restoration of City services may be justified as the Mayor announced, so too is a targeted restoration of City employee compensation cuts.

When we met again with the City’s team this morning (March 20th), the City’s lead negotiator Tim Davis informed us that the City Council voted this morning NOT to change the City’s bargaining position and thus to reject MEA’s proposal for a targeted restoration of the compensation reductions which have been in effect. Moreover, Mr. Davis conveyed to us that the City’s position is unlikely to change before the exchange of final offers which is currently scheduled for Thursday, March 29. You undoubtedly feel as your Team does – and as we conveyed — that the City Council’s position – though probably not surprising based on what we have all seen and heard — is a very discouraging and dismissive stance from an employer that has benefitted so greatly from such a dedicated workforce.

MEA’s Negotiating Team is continuing to meet, strategize and communicate with City officials. We are scheduled to meet again with the City on March 28th and 29th. The bargaining is far from over, but it is not headed in a positive direction given the City’s apparent inflexibility with regard to its initial position of “zero.” After the “final offer” exchange on March 29th, we meet again on April 6th for a pre-impasse meeting, with the impasse hearing itself scheduled for April 10th.

We will keep you informed of developments between now and then – and, as always, will call upon you to speak up and speak out at any impasse hearing whether by your voice or by your physical presence in Council Chambers. In the meantime, please feel free to contact your MEA representative at (619) 264-6632 if you have questions or need more information.