After 10 years, City Council bargaining unit enters negotiated contract

TESSA KOGA / AGGIE

City Council approves agreement with Davis City Employees Association

On Nov. 13, the Davis City Council approved a four-year labor agreement with the Davis City Employees Association. The decision concluded 10 years of negotiations, a time period during which workers operated with no agreed-upon contract and no new raises. This new contract offers city employees salary adjustments as well as introduces a cost-sharing retirement plan.

The DCEA consists of nearly a quarter of the city workforce, primarily employees who work in the field, such as electricians, maintenance workers and collection system staff.

The last contract that was agreed upon between the city and the DCEA ended in 2009. The two groups then reached an impasse when the DCEA rejected a proposal for a new contract in 2013. The Public Employment Relations Board stepped in, and after two fact-finding processes, the board allowed an imposed contract to go into effect that same year. This contract imposed two of the city’s concessions: changing the cash-out system and having employees pay their own California Public Employees’ Retirement System contributions, met with no offers for raises.

In light of those concessions being put into place, DCEA President Dave Owen said one reason why the DCEA now agreed to the 2018 contract was to avoid being imposed upon again.

“It’s better than where we were at,” Owen said. “Are we happy with it? No, but [it was] the best that we could do that we can see at this point.”

City Manager Michael Webb said he believes negotiations have become more productive in the past two years and that shifts in human resources management and in city council philosophy during that time — as well as the help of a new negotiator, Patrick Clark — contributed to the approval of the current contract.

“Under the last city council and then under our current city council is where I think a more robust conversation really started to take place — about compensation and compensation models — and trying to bring some greater alignment with our other bargaining units,” Webb said. “We also really took an approach of looking at total compensation and not just looking at salary.”

Owen disagreed with Webb with regard to both the claim that negotiations are becoming much more positive and that the conversation is changing to one of total compensation.

“We’ve been looking at total comp for years,” Owen said.

The outcomes of these compensation discussions have included integrating the cost of living adjustments as well as market adjustments for salaries of positions that have not kept up with the market. In a study, benchmarked positions were found to be below the market median when compared to similar agencies. The new contract brings all positions within 5.26 percent below the market median.

The DCEA had requested that the adjustments instead bring them all the way to market value, and Owen feels the city should have agreed with that request.

“They have built in for themselves more than a 5 percent discount,” Owen said. “It left a bad taste in your mouth that you were being discounted in this way, but the majority of our membership decided that this was better than nothing, so they took it.”

Webb acknowledged that the adjustments were limited but is confident in the decision.

“This agreement brings them into better alignment with the market,” Webb said. “I’m not saying it just brings them automatically up to market, but we ended up getting everyone within five and a quarter percent.”

As for other adjustments, all positions will receive at least a 2 percent yearly cost of living adjustment, unless pension costs change. This element provides for risk-sharing between the city and DCEA, a detail that Mayor Brett Lee considers an important part of the contract.

“In the past, whenever the pension costs either have gone up or down, the city is the one that has had to adjust,” Lee said. “In this agreement, both groups adjust.”

The cost of living adjustments could then potentially decrease — although to no lower than 1 percent — or increase to as high as 3 percent, depending on CalPERS, the city pension system.

Lee and Webb see the agreement as a success.

“[I am] very pleased with the outcomes because I think it strikes a nice balance between recognizing the value of our staff and making them the appropriate adjustments that are also in keeping with our need to make sure that we’re being fiscally prudent as an organization,” Webb said.

Owen, however, is frustrated with council’s presentation of the agreement as exclusively positive.

“We do have an agreement, but it isn’t the panacea that they would like you to believe this is,” Owen said. “[Councilmember] Lucas Frerichs can stand there and say that the city and the DCEA are pleased with this agreement, [but] he’s certainly not authorized to speak for us.”

In approximately two years, the city and the DCEA will begin negotiations again. Until then, the city at least anticipates that having a contract will bring a greater sense of stability to the organization.

 

Written by: Anne Fey — city@theaggie.org

 

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