Talks stall between SLO, employee union

The city of San Luis Obispo has declared an impasse with one of its employee unions as it attempts to implement a $937,620 cut to the group.

The city is asking that the San Luis Obispo City Employees Association, which represents 147 workers, agree to a minimum 6.8 percent reduction in total compensation, likely by employees paying their full retirement contribution.

The union is also being asked to accept a two-tier pension system for future hires.

This is the first time an impasse has been declared with the union, which represents maintenance and utility workers, inspectors, engineers, planners and administrative support.

“It is worthy to note that the compensation reductions being asked are unprecedented in the city’s bargaining history as well,” said City Manager Katie Lichtig. Ron Faria, president of the San Luis Obispo City’s Employee Association, would not say exactly where the breakdown in negotiations occurred, but did explain that what is being asked of employees is a lot. Faria said the 6.8 percent total compensation reduction actually equals about an 8 percent cut in salary. “We’ve got a lot of folks in my group in the $40,000 salary or less range,” said Faria. “Some of them have already lost their homes. The economy hasn’t been fair to anybody, and to have an 8 percent salary cut is tough.”

The two sides will now meet with Lichtig, who acts as the city’s employer-employee relations officer, and could move to a fact-finding process as the parties outline their concerns. If an agreement is not reached, the City Council will be tasked with making the final decision.

Negotiations with the union began in December.

The city is negotiating about $3.1 million in employee compensation cuts, or 6.8 percent per employee, as a way to balance its current two-year budget.

The city recently reached an agreement with the firefighters union and with unrepresented managers in December. It is still in closed-session negotiations with the San Luis Obispo Fire Battalion Chiefs Association and the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association.