There was a lot of talk in the comments section of my post about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s proposal to basically shut down the library system about employee compensation, and what kind of pay cut is reasonable to ask of City employees.
I don’t recall anyone coming out and saying what they think would make for reasonable concessions. There were, however, a couple of comments suggesting that concessions should be whatever it takes to close the budget deficit.
So I played around with the numbers a little bit yesterday. It’s difficult to get a firm number for total employee costs, since, as I’ve noted before, the Mayor’s budgets omit most of the information contained in normal budgets, such as the employees by position by department and fund, and personnel versus non-personnel costs by program. However, from what I was able to cobble together from various sources, it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of an 85% reduction in compensation (including benefits) to close the $58 million General Fund deficit only through concessions of non-sworn workers.
How much do City workers cost?
The chart below shows the average total personnel costs to the City for police, firefighters, and civilian employees, as explained in the budget facts (PDF).
Police, on average, cost $191,390 a year: $104,026 for salary, $43,164 for health benefits, and $44,200 for pensions. Firefighters, on average, cost a little bit less than that, $185,703 annually: $109,196 for salary, $48,150 for medical, and $28,367 for pensions. Non-sworn workers costs an average of $99,870 per year: $63,634 for salary, $22,040 for health, and $14,196 for pensions.
What do the unions say?
Anyway. It seemed fair, if we’re going to be discussing compensation, to include the union perspective in the conversation. The videos below show testimony from representatives of the City’s civilian unions at recent City Council budget meetings.
One thing that I think is important to note is that the testimony seems to suggest that negotiations are not going well at all. I have heard a lot of people, including Councilmembers, say that we basically don’t need to worry about Scenario A because it assumes no concessions from the unions and of course there will be plenty of concessions. I don’t feel nearly so comfortable making that assumption.
The position being expressed by the civilian unions at this point is basically that they are willing to give more in terms of concessions than they have over the last few years, but only if sworn employees take equivalent cuts. It’s a reasonable position, but one that makes me very nervous for the City, considering how things worked out last year.
Here’s one from last Thursday:
There’s a lot of budget facts floating around here right now. I’m here to connect the dots for you, the City Council, our City staff, and the residents of Oakland, and put a face on what your decisions mean for those of us who live in and work for the City of Oakland.
To repeat some facts: 54% of non-sworn staff live in the City of Oakland. 7% of Oakland Police Department officers live in the City of Oakland.
Non-sworn staff earn, on average, $75,000 in salary and benefits. OPD officers earn, on average, $150,000 in salary and benefits.
Approximately 66% of the City’s budget is paid to police and firefighters — where the budget deficit is.
City of Oakland residents have generously approved numerous property tax increases over the last few years, including myself. And you are currently considering asking residents to approve yet another $80 parcel tax to provide continued support to the City’s General Fund.
In 94605 area code, where I live, 40% of the homes in my district that are up for sale are either in foreclosure or short sale. That includes my home. 15% in salary cuts combined with 20% combined increases in mortgage, property tax, and insurance costs are forcing me out of my home.
We who both live and work in this City are paying at all ends. Cuts in income, higher housing costs, and continuous asks for more property taxes. And OPD is still not willing to pay a penny. Fair share!
Here’s one from the May 5th budget meeting:
Local 21 has a long history of making contributions to the City in times of budget crisis. In 2003, before we had even signed our recently negotiated contract, the City came to us seeking concessions and threatening layoffs because of projected budget shortfalls.
And although we had just agreed to increase employee retirement contributions by 3%, we then agreed to increase them by an addition 3% for another two years. That agreement included a pledge by the City to require all City employees to contribute the equivalent of either the 3% retirement contribution or 12 furlough days per year.
However, the City did not honor this agreement, and while civilian unions were required to make contributions or take cuts, sworn employees were not required to make any contribution at all.
Since the current economic crisis began, we have made substantial contributions to the City. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, the union agreed to the imposition of 12 shutdown days, of which all but one occurred after the last week of December, and, in effect, our members suffered a 10% loss of pay from January 09 through June 2009.
And then in our most recent contract, we agreed again to concessions of 10% by increasing our retirement contribution to the full employee rate of 8%, 12 mandatory business shutdown days per year, and one-third reduction in management leave. As a result, our cost of living increases for 2005 through 2007, when we last got one, were largely eliminated, and today we are making less than we made six years ago. In 2010, the City unilaterally and without meet and confer eliminated free parking for a number of members, effectively resulting in a further loss of pay.
All of these concessions came on top of substantial reductions in force without a corresponding elimination of programs or reduction in work. Today, our members are working harder for less pay.
Let me remind you that 56% of civilian workers live in Oakland, while only 22% of firefighters and only 7% of police. Put another way, when you look at those Oakland City employees who live in Oakland, 94% of them are civilians. We live here, we pay taxes, we vote. We are committed to this City. And we share the pain when vital community services are cut.
Time and time again, our experience has been this. Civilian employees are the first to make concessions to help the City’s budget. And we end up being the last to do so. This cannot continue.
We are all aware that nearly 75% of the City’s General Fund goes to police and fire, and much of what’s left goes to debt service and and mandated programs. There is no mathematical way to balance the City’s budget on the backs of civilian workers.
We understand that the City will be seeking further sacrifices from our members, and we understand that the wage concessions you will be seeking will be in addition to staff reductions and departmental reorganization and consolidation.
In other words, more layoffs, more cuts to essential quality of life services in Oakland, and a rollback of our compensation to an effective rate equal to where we were at in 2001, 10 years ago.
There is a limit to what our members can afford to give. Many are barely making ends meet as is. Many have partners or spouses who have lost work or income, compounding the pain. And some of our members, including some of the people who are currently at the bargaining table, are at risk of losing their homes. Basic fairness dictates that the cuts you make must be proportional to the cost of different bargaining units within the General Fund.
And given our past experience, we need to see contributions from other employee groups before we can agree to make our contribution because past promises to secure equivalent contributions have not been honored.
Let’s be clear. We are not saying that we can’t make a contribution. In fact, we could have been done with the bargaining process already, since you know we have offered for the last six months to roll over our existing contract and continue the concessions we have been giving for the past two years. That offer was not accepted.
What we are saying is that we are not willing to simply offer up concessions without seeing real contributions from those who constitute the bulk of the costs in the General Fund.
And another from last Thursday:
We have proven our willingness to sacrifice for this City, not just in the quality of our work life, but in our paychecks also. It hasn’t been easy. Many 1021 workers are the sole breadwinners in their family, some have lost their homes.
But now, during these difficult contract negotiations, our members are being asked to give too much. The proposals from the City equal over 25% of our incomes, and growing. Even so, our side is ready to roll up our sleeves, move forward, and negotiate, to mitigate our losses and to try to negotiate a contract that will save our services.
Unfortunately, as a member of the negotiations team, I have to report that your City negotiators seem intent on giving very little in terms of cooperating to improve our working conditions and to maintain the workforce in a humane way. It’s disgraceful in with as much humanity and compassion as Oakland that management has to treat its dedicated and most devoted workers with so little respect and care.
If the public saw what is going on in negotiations, they would understand. We’re being put in an impossible place. It’s like a mugging in slow motion. There is no give and take, the City is all take and take.
We aren’t asking for raises here. We’re seeking solutions to problems that negatively affect our work and services. The City workers are your partners and allies in a crisis that is not our fault. We’re not your scapegoats or your low-lying fruit. We are your workers and we work hard. Have some respect.