The San Jose City Council voted 8-3 on Tuesday to impose 10 percent cuts in wages and benefits on four employee unions that had reached an impasse with the City at the negotiations table.The alternative, said Mayor Chuck Reed, is to lay off 200 to 300 more employees to help balance a budget that is $115 million short. The city is already facing the elimination of 600 jobs, bringing the workforce to about 5,000, or the same staffing level as 1986 when San Jose’s population was 740,000.
“I do not want to have to put that in a budget message,” Reed said.
Reed’s budget message, which will give final direction to the city manager and her staff, is due on Friday, June 3. The council will vote on Reed’s budget balancing plan on June 14. The final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 21.
Imposing 10 percent cuts in wages and benefits – or getting agreements with the unions on the concessions – would save the city $39 million. The other proposed cost-cutting measures include closing libraries all but three days a week, slashing youth programs, leasing out 42 community centers to private operators and eliminating the jobs of 195 police officers.
City officials earlier had reached agreements on the 10 percent cuts with six employee unions, and are still negotiating with the Police Officers Association. The city cannot impose conditions in contracts with public safety workers.
Councilmembers Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos and Kansen Chu voted against the move, saying that the city should try harder to come to an agreement with the unions.
The action does not create contracts, and employees and the city could return to the table at any time, but it does establish the city’s strong position on the 10 percent concessions.
City employees and some community members express strong opposition to the council’s move and accused the city of bad faith bargaining.
“It is never a good thing for rank and file workers to have such little faith in the leadership of the city,” said Yolanda Cruz, president of the AFSCME Municipal Employees Federation Loal 101. “We have never been unwilling to support or work with the city to address budget shortfalls or to work on solutions.”
Said Rev. John Freesemann, pastor at Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church in San Jose, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Imposing work conditions will not solve the fiscal crisis. “
The city council also voted earlier in May to declare a fiscal emergency to impose limits on pension benefits, the cause of recurring deficits. Final action on that plan is scheduled for June 21. Some unions have agreed to continue negotiations on pensions reform.