SJ officials cut own pay, unions vow to battle cuts

April 28, 2010 12:54:53 PM PDT
San Jose employees' unions promise they will battle proposals to cut their pay after the city took the first step Tuesday night towards making everyone tighten their belts.

The city is facing a record $116 million dollar deficit and the clock is ticking toward the deadline for a balanced budget. That deadline is Monday, when the city manager will submit a budget proposal for review.

Since none of the employee unions have agreed to the requested cuts, city leaders have begun making controversial moves to save jobs and services. They are asking and in some cases requiring city employees to take pay cuts in order to save jobs and services.

ABMEI Union President Tom Brim says, "This is wrong. It's not the way to do it."

For 25 years, Brim has inspected buildings for San Jose. He believes that if city leaders continue hacking at its workers' pay and benefits to balance the budget, it will be tougher and tougher to keep quality employees.

"Like my dad always said, if you want the oats before they go through the horse, you have to pay fair market value," Brim says. "If you want the oats after they went through the horse, well, we can sell you that for really cheap."

Late Tuesday night, the council voted 7 to 4 to impose a permanent five percent cut in pay and benefits to the 50-member union of city building inspectors. The inspectors already experienced 38 percent layoffs last year and agreed to furloughs to save some jobs.

They are one of 11 unions San Jose is asking for 10 percent concessions to help balance a record $116 million operating deficit.

"The 10 percent across the board concessions would generate about $62 million in savings," says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Reed and city council members say everyone needs to sacrifice. They all voted unanimously to cut their pay 10 percent. They also approved five percent cuts for 240 non-union workers including council staff and managers.

"Our average cost per employee has gone up 64 percent over the last nine years," Reed says. "We're trying to roll it back by 10 percent, but we're trying to do on a permanent basis, so we can continue serve the people of San Jose. If we do that on an ongoing basis we can save jobs and services."

Last week more than 1,300 city workers already received layoff notices. Public safety stands to lose the most, 88 police officers and 74 firefighters. Police and firefighters unions call such layoffs a gamble with safety and residents' lives.

The mayor says it does not have to happen if every union agrees to cuts.

The final number of job losses will depend on the number of union concessions made. Without them, the city says it will certainly face service cuts including branch library hours, community centers, pools, and even the city's 50-year-old "Christmas in the Park' tradition.

The council will vote on a final budget in June.


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