MODESTO -- The city has declared an impasse in its labor talks with the Modesto Police Non-Sworn Association, which represents about 60 community service officers, police records clerks, crime analysts and other nonsworn public safety employees.
The city's Jan. 4 declaration comes after about a dozen meetings in nearly a year between negotiators for both sides. The declaration means the city can impose its terms on the union.
Union President Art Mil-ler said the sticking point has been how much of their wages members should pay toward their pensions with the California Public Employees Retirement System.
He said the city wants MPNSA members to pay the full employee contribution of 7 percent. Members now pay 0.4 percent, with the city paying the remaining 6.6 percent in addition to its contribution on behalf of its employees.
Miller said the city would give MPNSA members a 1.5 percent raise in exchange for paying the 7 percent.
He said that nets out to a 5.1 percent pay cut for members, who he said are the city's lowest-paid workers and have not had a pay raise since 2007. He said the typical MPNSA member earns about $40,000 a year.
Miller said while his members have gone without pay increases, police officers and firefighters have seen their pay increase by 15 percent in several years.
"That creates an additional heartburn for us," Miller said. "Our highest-ranking rank-and-file employees are rewarded at the expense of our lowest rank-and-file employees. We understand the city has financial problems, but we'd like the see the pain shared equally."
He said his members want a larger raise to offset the cost of paying more for their pensions.
Deputy City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said MPNSA members are among the city's lowest-paid. She confirmed that they have not received raises since 2007 while pay for Modesto Police Officers Association members has gone up 17 percent since 2008. The MPOA represents the Police Department's roughly 180 officers and detectives.
"We certainly understand their concerns, but decline to comment because we are in contract negotiations with them," Williams-
The city declared an impasse after MPNSA members rejected the city's last, best, final offer. Miller said 37 members voted, with 36 rejecting the offer and one accepting it. The MPNSA contract expired in September.
Modesto officials can ask the City Council to impose the terms of the city's final offer. The MPNSA has 30 days since the declaration of impasse to ask for fact-finding, a process that involves convening a panel, which would render a nonbinding opinion. If the union did, the city could not impose its terms until after the fact-finding process had concluded.
Miller said the MPNSA has not decided whether to ask for fact-finding.
But despite declaring an impasse, the city and the MPNSA met recently to try to resolve their differences.
In recent years, Modesto has asked its employees to pay more of the cost of their benefits during a time of declining or flat revenues and rising employee costs. For instance, members of Modesto's two other nonpublic-safety unions have recently started paying the full 7 percent of their pension contributions or will be within a few months. These union members will be receiving 1.5 percent raises in the coming months.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.
MODESTO CITY COUNCIL WATCH
The Modesto City Council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place,1010 10th St. The council is expected to:
Discuss in closed session one case of anticipated litigation and a federal lawsuit filed in May against the city and several Modesto police officers by a Modesto woman and her two daughters. The women claim the police officers unlawfully intervened in a civil dispute between them and a repossession company representative who wanted to tow the mother's car in April 2011. The lawsuit claims that once the family disputed the repossession, the representative would have to seek court action to take the car. Instead, the lawsuit states, the representative called the police. Officers entered the family home without a warrant, would not leave when the family asked them and helped the representative take the car, the lawsuit says. Additionally, the lawsuit states that the officers manhandled the woman. Attorneys for the family and the city have agreed to give the city until Feb. 1 to respond to the lawsuit to facilitate settlement discussions and the need to present proposals to the council.
Reconsider the appointment of Frank Ploof to the city's Citizens Housing & Community Development Committee, which advises the council regarding federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. The appointment was pulled from the Jan. 8 council meeting after Councilman Dave Lopez raised questions about Ploof's involvement with SCAP, a Modesto housing nonprofit that came under fire in mid-2011 for the more than $627,000 in compensation its development director earned in 2010 and for how it spent more than $8 million in federal funds it received from the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Lopez also questioned Ploof's involvement with two other nonprofits the Renaissance Center and Home of the Brave. Ploof was not at the meeting, but has since provided the city with information regarding his involvement. Ploof said he was a SCAP board member for about three weeks in June 2011 and resigned once he realized the issues it faced. Ploof said he was a volunteer case manager for the Renaissance Center, which temporarily used the facility that later housed Home of the Brave. Ploof is expected to attend Tuesday's council meeting.
Hear a presentation from the Information Technology Department regarding Modesto being named as one of the top-ranked local governments in the nation for its use of technology in the 10th annual Digital Cities Survey. Modesto was ranked eighth among cities with populations of 125,000 to 249,999.