EL CERRITO -- The city is following the example of the state of California in striking a deal with union workers to reduce the cost of pension benefits.
The City Council approved a new agreement Tuesday evening for a two-year contract with about 75 members of the Service Employees International Union that included concessions that will save El Cerrito about $79,000 in the current fiscal year and $21,000 next year.
SEIU workers include City Hall personnel as well as maintenance and recreation workers. Police officers and firefighters have separate contracts with the city.
Employees will contribute 2.5 percent of their pay to their pensions this year, up from 1 percent under the old contract and rising to 3 percent in 2013-14.
Workers will receive a 3.25 percent wage increase this year. But that will be more than offset by the imposition of three furlough days and the loss of one of three floating holidays. There will be no pay increase in 2013-14.
The city intends to create a second tier of pension benefits for new employees to go into effect during the term of the contract. It will limit benefits to 2 percent of final pay for every year worked. The new class of workers will be eligible to begin benefits at age 60.
Current employees are eligible to receive 2.7 percent of their final pay for each year worked at age 55.
Negotiations with the city took place over a two-month period to replace a contract that expired June
Mayor Bill Jones complimented negotiators for both sides on the successful agreement, saying they were essential to maintaining city services and avoiding layoffs.
In other action, the city approved a resolution urging local pest control companies, hardware stores and city contractors to stop using a group of 20 rodent poisons that it said create a hazard for children and pets and for birds that can ingest the poisons by eating dead mice and rats.
It also agreed to send a letter requesting that the state Department of Pesticide Regulation refuse to renew registration of 20 rodent control products because of the risk they pose to public and environmental health.
Several residents spoke at the meeting in favor of the resolutions.
"Use of these rodent baits has resulted in thousands of deaths of children, dogs and cats," said Jane Kelly of Berkeley. "El Cerrito has been forward-thinking and creative (about the environment) before with the recycling center and restoring native plants."
Pamela Austin of El Cerrito suggested that residents install owl houses to attract owls that prey on rats as an alternative to the poisons.
"My cat patrols my yard, killing rats, which are then taken away and eaten by crows," Austin said. "A poisoned rat could kill the cat and the crow."
Jeffrey Pryde, manager of Pastime Ace Hardware, said his store carries D-Con, one of the poisons on the list.
He said he has not decided what to do about the resolution.
He mentioned a wide variety of alternatives, including glue traps, snap traps and electronic zappers.
"People are normally not in a good mood when they're looking to get rid of a rat," Pryde said. "We try to have every variation that we can."
The Council also passed resolutions in support of Measures E and G, the West Contra Costa Unified School District's bond measure and parcel tax on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In addition, it adopted a resolution opposing Prop. 32, known as "Stop Special Interest Money Now," after agreeing to changes to the wording proposed by Jones.