Wednesday, April 23, 2014

City Council asked to impose terms on fire union

From page A1 | December 15, 2013 | 11 Comments

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Who: Davis City Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (a joint meeting with the Davis Planning Commission precedes at 5:30 p.m.)

Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; streamed at

For the second time in as many months, City Manager Steve Pinkerton will recommend to the Davis City Council on Tuesday that it impose its last, best and final offer on a major employee association in the city.

This time around, it’s the members of the Davis Professional Firefighters Association Local 3494 who stand to watch their overall compensation diminished, similar to the Davis City Employees Association, on whom the council imposed terms in November.

“Imposing the recommended terms and conditions of employment will bring the costs of the Davis Professional Firefighters union in line with the approved amount budgeted for fiscal year 2013-14,” Pinkerton said in his report to the council.

“It costs the city approximately $28,000 per month each month an agreement is not reached with the Davis Professional Firefighters Local 3494.”

The council’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. Watch it live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. The meeting also can be streamed on the city’s website at

A joint meeting with the city’s Planning Commission will start at 5:30 p.m. in the chambers.

The city has reached full three-year agreements with each of the other major employee groups in Davis, including the Davis Police Officers Association and the Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association.

All employee association MOUs expired in June 2012.

Battling several forces pulling on the city’s coffers — including rising CalPERS pension costs, looming and expensive road and bike path repairs and spiraling retiree medical costs — the council has asked each group to make several substantial concessions.

But while the council and city management were able to lock in deals with two major employee groups, DCEA and the fire union have not been willing to make such drastic changes.

Instead, as the council may agree with again Tuesday, management has suggested imposition of terms.

“This imposition will not and cannot establish a new contract, but rather, will change some of the terms and conditions of employment under which the parties are currently operating,” the report said.

“(If the council imposes) the city will, of course, then conduct new negotiations with the Davis Professional Firefighters to try to reach agreement on a new memorandum of understanding for the following year or years.”

The concessions primarily focus on employee benefits, but in some cases the terms dramatically affect take-home pay for the employees.

For example, the proposed terms for the fire union reduce the cafeteria cash-out benefit from a maximum of about $1,400 per month to $500 per month by June 30, 2015.

The city gives employees a set amount of money each month to buy health insurance. If the employees do not buy the city’s insurance because they’re covered by a spouse’s plan, the employee can then take that insurance money home in cash.

Davis firefighters average $93,000 per year in salary. With the cash-out benefit, any firefighter taking the maximum amount could take home an additional $16,800.

The terms proposed to the council also would require the union to pay 3 percent of the city’s share of pension costs in addition to the 9 percent that the fire association pays of its own share of the costs.

Members of the Davis Police Officers Association, meanwhile, pay 12 percent of their own share of pension costs. Police began paying 3 percent of the city’s share in 2009.

Further, the imposed terms would reduce uniform allowance pay and eliminate pre-paid overtime for the firefighters.

Because the city doesn’t believe it can impose changes to retiree health benefits, those terms would remain the same, similar to Davis’ arrangement with DCEA. However, the employees will not receive salary increases that the city has promised in exchange for that particular concession.

The city is looking to switch retiree health coverage onto a two-tiered program where new employees are offered less in retirement for health care.

Budget review/preview 

In addition to presenting a midyear budget update Tuesday, Pinkerton also will ask the council for policy direction on how the city should approach handling the budget next year.

Facing several difficult fiscal challenges — including the need to round up money to pave city roads and pay for pension and health care costs — the council may look to develop a special tax, or increase the city’s sales tax, to help balance Davis’ budget.

In the staff report, Pinkerton says the city is facing a $5.1 million “structural imbalance” for fiscal year 2014-15.

Central Park restrooms 

Continuing the item from last week, the council will make its final decision Tuesday on whether to demolish the Works Progress Administration restroom facility in Central Park.

Explorit looking for help

After the council directed staff last month to work with Explorit Science Center, the city’s long-serving nonprofit science education center that has fallen on hard times financially, staff will return with dollar estimates of how much it will cost to keep the organization afloat.

Staff recommends enough funding, at least, to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility in Mace Ranch Park that the city leases the center at no cost, and some additional funding to keep the operation running through next year, roughly in the range of $20,000 total.

— Reach Tom Sakash at or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.

Discussion | 11 comments

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  • Rich RifkinDecember 14, 2013 - 11:11 pm

    "For example, the proposed terms for the fire union reduce the cafeteria cash-out benefit from a maximum of about $1,400 per month to $500 per month by June 30, 2015." …… This is true, but the monthly cash-out number will go up on January 1, 2014, if the Council does not impose terms on Tuesday. Currently, the fire union's members get a benefit of $1,738.44 per month ($20,861/year). They cash-out 80% of any unused benefit. A full monthly cash-out is $1,738.44 x 80% = $1,390.75 ($16,689/year). ……… The benefit amount for all Davis employees goes up on January 1. (The fire union has by far the highest medical benefit allowance of all labor groups*.) The fire union's benefit will rise to $1,931.07 per month. That means their monthly cash-out, barring action on Tuesday, will be $1,544.86 ($18,538.27/year), an annual increase of $1,850 per firefighter. If medical inflation in 2014 slows to 10%--this year the price increase was over 11% for all Davis employees--the annual benefit in 2015 will be about $2,125/month for each firefighter and a cash-out of up to $1,700/month ($20,400). …….. Thus, if the Council imposes its terms on the firefighters, the annual savings from just the cash-out reform will be more than $16,000 per firefighter, beginning in 2015. And if the Council fails to act, the City will probably have to lay off another 8-10 employees who are now providing services to the people of Davis. ……... (*Why is the firefighters' medical benefit worth more than that of all other city employees, including the police? Clearly, it's corrupt. The voters of Davis have elected people who care more about their own futures in politics than the public interest. And we are still seeing that on this Council when they vote on some fire department issues.)

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  • Bob V.December 15, 2013 - 3:05 am

    Rich, so you mean that Lucas Frerichs and Dan Wolk value their political standing with labor unions and the California Democratic Party to the detriment of a fiscally sound city budget? It's OK to be blunt, you should try it more often.

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  • JeanDecember 15, 2013 - 8:34 am

    Dan Wolk votes with the firefighters sometimes (3 on an engine) and against them sometimes (the $2 million set-aside from compensation to deferred maintenance in FY 2012, his initial vote for the JPA, and how I believe he will vote on Tuesday). It seems hard to say he's towing the union line. More likely, he's deciding each issue on its own merits as he should.

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  • Rich RifkinDecember 15, 2013 - 9:06 am

    "His initial vote for the JPA." ………. Nothing could be more telling, Jean, than that 'change of mind.' You need to know that something crucial happened in between. The fire union pulled out its big guns and figuratively threatened Dan to change his vote. And he did change his vote--when it counted. The big guns in this case were two letters, each completely full of erroneous information and illogic. The letters were written at the behest of the fire union. The first was signed by various elected officials, including Dan's mother, who has in the past paid the price for not towing the line with the unions. The second was signed by Ted Puntillo and Ruth Asmundson (who always voted for the fire contracts as the union wanted), Betsy Marchand (former supervisor and close friend of Bobby Weist--by chance I was in Marchand's home with Weist this year), and Alan Fernandes (who I am told passed the letter around to the other signers). Alan is a bright and ambitious man, who seems to side with monied public employee unions against the public interest in all cases. If you think Dan was acting in good faith with that vote against the shared chief model, go back to the video of the meeting and listen to his series of very good questions he had about the proposal. Each was answered by Vice Chancellor John Meyer (who was formerly the city manager of Davis). Chancellor Meyer knocked every question Dan had out of the park. That Q&A factually made it clear that this was a good deal for the people of Davis. Yet Dan, who is perfectly able to understand what Meyer told him, still voted against the people of Davis and for the unions which run his political party. Very telling, indeed.

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  • Jim C.December 15, 2013 - 11:14 am

    Why does it seem that when new fire department positions are opened, there is a long line of potential applicants? Like hundreds for the two positions recently? Sounds like tremendous demand for these positions. Therefore, why do we have to pay so much for these positions both as to salaries and benefits? Just asking.......

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  • greg johnsonDecember 15, 2013 - 6:42 pm

    Great question. Why is it the government always want (or, at least are willing) to pay more than the market demands? Could it be because they aren't the ones working for the money they're spending. A friend of mine retired a few years ago from the San Mateo PD. If he lives to be 75, he will draw more in retirement than he did during his service. Is there a problem here???

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  • JeanDecember 15, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    Rich, I'm sure you think John Meyer "knocked it out of the park". But he left a lot of questions unanswered. Like, what if the City and University disagree on an issue critical to fire management? How is that resolved? And if the City really is an equal player in decision making, how was the very first action of the JPA, the "West Valley Fire" debacle, where new patches and uniforms were bought without final approval by the City, done without anyone in the city knowing about it? The bottom line, as Dan articulated, is that there are a lot of questions still to be answered about how this structure will work in practice. And there is absolutely no reason we should be rushing this decision (no looming deadline and certainly no push from the wider community to make the change). You and others, who just want to punish our public employees at every possibility, are as intransigent and demanding of 100% obedience of public officials as you accuse the unions of being. Dan Wolk had agreed with you sometimes and disagreed other times. Yet you unflinchingly call him a tool of the unions. You and Bobby Weist are the same, bullies who demand full obedience, it just so happens you are on opposite sides of this issue. But your tactics are the same. And Dan Wolk, by voting his conscience, gets caught in the crossfire. We need more leaders like Dan who can vote independent of the unions on one side and the rabid anti-labor folks like yourself on the other.

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  • NaturallyDecember 15, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    Someone who votes his conscience independent of union or anti-labor interests? You mean like Joe Krovoza?

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  • JeanDecember 15, 2013 - 5:49 pm

    When I has Krovoza ever voted for something that would BENEFIT a public employee union. He's as anti-union as they come. The Ronald Reagan of this Council. Which I'm sure is great if that's your politics. But it's not "independence", it's anti-labor conservatism.

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  • Rich RifkinDecember 15, 2013 - 10:17 pm

    "He's as anti-union as they come. The Ronald Reagan of this Council." …….. For the record, Jean, Ronald Reagan was the president of his union, the Screen Actors Guild. Reagan, in fact, is the only union official of any sort to ever rise to the presidency of the United States. I am not certain, but I think Reagan may be the only American president who was in a union ever. The only one I am not sure about is Bill Clinton. He was a law professor for one year at the University of Arkansas. It's possible the faculty there had a union of some sort.

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  • ScottDecember 16, 2013 - 9:40 am

    Spot on Jean! Plus, comments about Rich that he just won't be able to accept.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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