The Burbank City Council on Tuesday imposed terms of employment on the Burbank city attorneys union after a year of unsuccessful negotiations, a move Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy called “regrettable.”
The council approved imposing the terms in a unanimous vote with no discussion. The terms include a 3% raise for members of the Burbank City Attorneys Assn., made up of 10 attorneys and a paralegal, in exchange for the employees paying their full employee pension contribution, which is 8% of their salaries.
That adds up to roughly $68,000 in annual savings to city coffers, and $35,871 in savings this fiscal year.
Union president Terry Stevenson called the terms — which amount to a 1% to 3% pay cut for the employees, depending on their date of hire — “regressive” from previous offers.
“If you go forward and impose these terms and conditions, I fear that in the future, you will come to find that it would be difficult to recruit and retain highly qualified attorneys for our office,” Stevenson told council members before their vote.
Stevenson said imposing terms on any bargaining group is unprecedented for Burbank, though city officials could not immediately confirm that.
The decision marked the culmination of a year of labor negotiations, which reached a dead end last summer after the two groups failed to agree on 30 issues, the most contentious being salaries and pension plans.
According to a city report, the union had initially asked for a 13.4% raise retroactive to November 2012 and a 2% raise annually for the next three fiscal years, which city officials had said was well beyond what the city could afford.
But Stevenson said that when translated to an hourly wage, the city’s senior assistant city attorneys make roughly $82 an hour, which he argued was less than the fee of any outside attorney the city has hired.
City officials said the terms address the city’s structural budget deficit and are consistent with the goal of having all of its employee groups pay their full pension contributions because the city’s pension costs have skyrocketed in recent years and are projected to continue to increase.
The pension issue remains the subject of a pending lawsuit the union filed against the city in February. The union claims the city forced its members to pay a portion of their employee retirement contributions which the city had long ago agreed to cover, according to the lawsuit.