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MEA Negotiating Team Reaches Tentative Agreement With City on New Contract

Your MEA Negotiating Team has reached a tentative agreement with City negotiators on a new Fiscal Year 2013 contract.  The Negotiating Team is unanimously recommending support of the deal by MEA members at a ratification vote that will likely be scheduled for next week.

As previewed in our previous negotiations update, the City’s position has remained consistent that nothing more than a “status quo” contract in terms of compensation would be offered to any bargaining unit in the City.  This is obviously a frustrating position for the City to take given the Mayor’s recent announcement that the City’s structural budget deficit has “ended” and that this newfound budget stability is largely a result of substantial economic sacrifice by City employees and their families.

But the political reality is that the City Council votes needed to achieve any (even partial) restoration of those sacrifices for any City employee in this contract cycle are simply not there.  Some money is available in the budget but the votes to share it, in part, with employees are not—at least not this year. There are several factors that contribute to this reality, including the overall negative political climate, the fact that this is the last year of a lame-duck Mayor’s term (and therefore there is no support for a multi-year deal), and election year dynamics that are not favorable.

Accordingly, your Negotiating Team set out to accomplish a number of other objectives, as well as to see if there was any additional incentive to be gained by reaching an agreement with the City, rather than simply declaring impasse, knowing that the City Council would eventually impose the Mayor’s last, best and final offer on our employees, and that imposition would not include many of the items that are included in this deal.  MEA’s Team was mindful of several goals, all of which were met with this tentative agreement:

  1. Prevent Further Takeaways: The agreement keeps all MEA-represented employees’ economic compensation and benefits unchanged, with the exception of the elimination of the SPSP waiver option. As we previously previewed, we are agreeing to eliminate the SPSP waiver option for FY2013 because of the IRS ramifications uncovered last year.
  2. Preserve Furlough: We heard from many employees that the ability to take furlough (rather than simply suffer pay deductions without the time off in return) was something that we should work to preserve, and we accomplished that despite the City’s less than favorable view of this option.  To this day, other bargaining units continue to be forced to accept some portion of the FY2010 compensation cuts with a straight pay or flex benefit reduction, without at least getting 52 hours of time off in exchange for that sacrifice. In this tentative agreement, furlough remains for MEA-represented employees.
  3. Protect DROP: No reduction of the DROP benefit is contained in this agreement. As in previous years, the City asked for, and MEA agreed to a provision allowing meet and confer over the cost of DROP in the future (while not waiving our legal arguments against any change in DROP and reserving all rights).
  4. Advance a Variety of “Non-Economic” Contract Changes: We made substantial progress on several proposals made by both the City and MEA, including compelling the City to withdraw several unfavorable proposals (such as the elimination of comp time) as well as compelling the City to accept various proposals for new contract language favorable to employees.
  5. Protect MEA-Represented Employees With a “Me Too” Clause: The City agreed to an automatic “me too” clause in the event that another bargaining unit receives any economic enhancement whatsoever in this contract cycle either through agreement or through an impasse process. The fact that the City agreed to this clause validates the accuracy of the political assessment that the Council votes for additional economic enhancements for any employee this year are simply not there.
  6. Receive an Additional Benefit in Exchange for Reaching an Agreement: All MEA-represented employees will receive two paid discretionary days off (16 hours to be used in the same manner as annual leave) as a result of reaching an agreement.

In summary, this is not a contract to celebrate. But given the clear political reality that the votes were not there on the City Council to do anything more, and given that we were successful in accomplishing a number of other objectives as a result of reaching an agreement, the MEA Negotiating Team is unanimously recommending MEA members’ ratification of this tentative agreement.

A complete summary of all of the deal points in this tentative agreement is being finalized and will be e-blasted out as soon as it is ready. In addition, the details, times and locations of MEA’s ratification vote (likely scheduled for next week) will be sent out as soon as they are ready.  We will keep you posted on any other related information as soon as it becomes available.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact your MEA representative at (619) 264-6632 if you have questions or need more information.