Bills
music in the park san jose

City officials and police and fire union representatives expect
to reach multimillion-dollar agreements next week that will likely
avoid layoffs, sources said.
City officials and police and fire union representatives expect to reach multimillion-dollar agreements next week that will likely avoid layoffs, sources said.

Details of both proposals remain sealed, but officials said Fire Local 2805 aims to avoid layoffs in part by agreeing to close Sunrise Fire Station an unknown number of days each month. Gilroy Police Detective Frank Bozzo said the Gilroy Police Officers’ Association was “very close” to reaching a deal to save the city $1.1 million.

By nixing expensive projects and laying off 48 full-time employees Jan. 31, the city cut nearly $8 million from its original $40.7 million budget this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Included in these savings projections were Bozzo and Sgt. John Sheedy’s retirements, which will save the city more than $360,000 if they are not replaced. Bozzo, who came up through the department with Sheedy during the ’70s, denied rumors that city officials were forcing him and Sheedy into retirement as part of the ongoing agreement.

“If I didn’t retire as scheduled, then somebody would be laid off instead of me,” Bozzo, a 29-year officer, said Thursday. “But it was my plan then to retire June 30, and it’s still my plan to retire June 30, so that negates any suspicions of the city trying to force me out.” Sheedy could not be reached Thursday.

The 33 members of Fire Local 2805 will vote on an agreement early next week, Representative Jim Buessing said Thursday. The council voted 6-1 Monday in closed session – with Councilman Craig Gartman voting no – to accept the proposal. The council has yet to vote on a police proposal.

Gilroy Fire Department Chief Dale Foster and his battalion chiefs have already agreed – along with the city’s managerial brass and the bulk of its non-emergency employees – to take a 9-percent pay cut annually over the next two years through raise forfeitures and furloughs every other Friday starting July 1. Those cuts will save the city $1.6 million, lowering next year’s budget expected deficit to $3.6 million. Gilroy’s annual budget next year is $37 million.

Like Buessing, Foster would not comment on the agreement, but said firefighters “know they’re not being singled out and that we all have to be a part of this.”

Rather than negotiations being an opportunity to slash historically high overtime costs caused by under-staffing and time-consuming training, the last round of layoffs only exacerbated that problem by cutting six firefighter positions – four of which were filled – along with six paid-call firefighters and four support staff, Foster said. A handful of firefighters took home $30,000 to $40,000 in overtime in recent years.

“If you don’t have those relief people but you still have the same requirements to cover, then you’re going to have some of the same (overtime) concerns,” Foster said. “Right now, we’re holding on. Everybody’s got in the back of their mind, ‘Hey, when’s this going to bottom out?'”

POA President Mitch Madruga said his union’s proposal “will allow us to hang on to three POA members who are right now seeking employment at other agencies.” While no police officers lost their jobs in the last round of layoffs, the department lost 14 support positions, and two officers have since accepted jobs with the Watsonville Police Department amid uncertainties surrounding their positions – which will remain unfilled – Police Chief Denise Turner said. About 30 patrol officers belong to the 58-member union, which also includes detectives and administrative staff who do not patrol the streets.

To avoid layoffs, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101 – Gilroy’s largest union with members ranging from city engineers to emergency dispatchers – forfeited two 2-percent raises worth about $400,000 that were promised over the next year and agreed to two furlough days each month. The Gilroy Management Association and Gilroy’s non-unionized, high-ranking staff also agreed to furloughs and other concessions that will cut employee compensation by 9 percent. The council originally asked for 16 percent cuts from all unions.

The agreements restored merit-based raises – known as “step increases” – due to employees between March and June that the council froze in February after learning that dozens of workers had been given raises while 48 of their colleagues were laid off. However, merit-based raises, “cost-of-living adjustments” and tuition reimbursements will all cease July 1.

Since 2000, AFSCME members have received a 38 percent increase in compensation, according to city figures. Fire saw the same increase, and police officers have seen their compensation increase by 40 percent over the past nine years. The management group received a 35 percent increase while non-unionized employees received 32 percent and the council received 20 percent. Over the same period, the consumer price index for western cities of Gilroy’s size has increased by 24 percent, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Status of city-union negotiations

Gilroy Police Officers’ Association, 58 members

– Talks ongoing with union offering $1.1 million in undisclosed, non-personnel cuts

– Eight sworn officers’ jobs on the line

– Two positions to be left unfilled

– Union representatives eyeing city reserve fund

– Council directed staff Monday to keep talking

Fire Local 2805, 33 members

– Council approved the union’s proposal, which remains sealed until the union ratifies it next week

– Proposal includes the occasional closing of Sunrise Fire Station

– Union eyeing reserve fund

– Six firefighters’ jobs likely spared

Gilroy Manager’s Association, 23 members

– Union approved furloughs and temporary pay cuts to save $300,000

– Saved four positions

AFSCME, 103 members

– Union approved furloughs and temporary pay cuts to save $1.1 million

– Saved 13 positions

Gilroy non-unionized Employees, 7 members

– Includes city administrator and department heads

– Agreed to furloughs and temporary pay cuts to save $200,000

Source: City of Gilroy, unions and council members

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