San Luis Obispo OKs agreements with labor unions

The San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved one-year agreements with four of the city’s five labor groups, saving the city an estimated $490,000.

The two unions representing the majority of city workers and firefighters agreed to forfeit cost-of-living increases and additional city contributions to their health insurance for one year. In addition, unrepresented managers and confidential employees agreed to the same terms. Those groups represent about 81 percent of city staff.

Negotiations are ongoing with the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association.

The union, which represents 62 employees, is not asking for additional compensation, said Matt Blackstone, president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association. Rather, it wants a guarantee that no additional positions will be cut from line-level staff, which includes patrol and traffic officers, detectives, dispatchers and technicians.

Four positions were already eliminated in the 2009-10 fiscal year, Blackstone said.

“Our primary concern is that we have an appropriate level of staffing,” Blackstone said. “We understand that positions will be cut with the budget the way it is. We hope to have some influence on the level of staffing so we can do our jobs — emergency response.”

The contracts setting the pay and benefits for those five employee groups will expire Dec. 31. During negotiations, city staff asked the groups to consider one-year agreements forgoing cost-of-living increases or increases to the city’s contribution to employee health insurance.

A five-year fiscal forecast presented to the City Council in late October identified an expected $2.2 million shortfall in the city’s roughly $54 million annual general fund in the budget for fiscal year 2011-12. That shortfall will grow to $3 million in 2012-13 and continue to average about $2.6 million over the next five years, according to city projections.

Agreements with two bargaining groups remain. Terms for the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association, which represents police management positions, expire in June 2012; the contract with the San Luis Obispo Battalion Chiefs Association expires in December 2011.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.