WALNUT CREEK -- Yet another employee group has a new three-year contract with the city, which means a pay bump but also requires staffers to pay more of their health care costs.
The confidential unit, which includes high-level office administrators, is the fourth employee group in the past year to reach an agreement with the Walnut Creek City Council.
The new three-year agreement, passed by a 4-1 council vote on June 17, gives workers a 2.5 percent raise for two-years (similar to what other bargaining groups received last year), a 2 percent increase in 2016, an increase in the employer contribution of a 401 Money Purchase Plan and an increase in general leave plan accrual rates for employees with 20 or more years of service. The agreement also allows for a removal of the 25-year service cap for employer contributions to the Retirement Health Savings (RHS) Plan. Employees in the confidential unit, which is around 20 staffers, already pay their full contribution to the California Public Retirement System.
But employees will see their healthy care costs increase during the three year term, paying 5 to eventually 12.5 percent of their premium.
Council agreed to a one-time payment of $500 for unit employees in part to minimize the impact of the increased employee contributions to health care.
The agreement ends on June 30, 2017 and will cost the city an estimated $165,000 over the next three years.
Although there are small salary increases, there is a substantial give back, said Councilwoman Cindy Silva at the June meeting, noting that health care premiums have been rising at about 14 percent a year.
"This unit (and others) ... has agreed to pay a percentage of their premium as opposed to a percentage of their salary," she said. "This is going to be a significant difference in paving the path for cost savings."
Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons pointed out that this agreement is virtually identical to other adopted memorandums of understandings.
"It is important to me that we treat our employees as fairly as we can between and among the groups," he said.
Councilwoman Loella Haskew said she had to comment on Councilman Justin Wedel's pattern of "no" votes on employee contracts.
"I have listened to him vote no for all of the MOUs ... I think this is disruptive," she said. "We have a great staff here in Walnut Creek. They are dedicated public servants. To vote no on reasonable compensation is wrong and disrespectful to the people who work for our city. When you don't properly pay your staff, they look for greener pastures elsewhere."
Wedel said that while he supports employees, the city can't afford the increased costs.
"This City Council, or the council majority, has refused to have a meaningful discussion about what is in the best long-term interest of this community from a spending perspective," he said.
"We are in this situation not because we have an income issue but because we have a spending problem."
As for the rest of the employee groups, the city now has contracts with all seven of its employees groups, and has a resolution with its department directors that are not represented by a unit, said City Manager Ken Nordhoff.
"We are in the process of starting the Civilian Police Unit (negotiations), whose contract lapses Sept. 30," he said.
The Police Officers Association and the Police Managers Association "contracts run through next June -- staff would begin these negotiations with their respective unit representatives next spring."
In February, the Walnut Creek Employees Association, the largest bargaining unit in the city, representing more than 110 employees reached an agreement with the city after state mediation.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617 or email@example.com