Costa Mesa workers OK $24.7 million annual contract; lower pay for new hires

The Costa Mesa City Council announced Tuesday that the municipal workers union has ratified an employment agreement, a move that brings the yearlong, sometimes contentious negotiation process closer to the finish line.

The new Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. contract, at an estimated cost of $24.7 million a year, is expected to save nearly $950,000 annually compared with the previous agreement through reductions in salary and benefits for new hires, among other measures.

The new contract would run through 2016. The previous contract expired in March 2013.

The roughly 200-member union, after a series of meetings, has ratified the agreement, said Mayor Jim Righeimer after a closed-door meeting.

The contract was posted on the city's website Tuesday night. It is still subject to a final council vote later this year. Under the city's Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, ordinance, two public hearings must take place to give the public a chance to weigh in on the agreement. They will be held Sept. 2 and Sept. 16.

Though the agreement calls for no changes to current employees' salaries, new hires would see wages that are 10% lower.

Costa Mesa also could outsource the street sweeping service, but with no layoffs of city employees. The contract also stipulates that the CMCEA cannot sue should the city decide to outsource that service, though a minimum of six months' notice must be given.

The contract proposes significant cuts to vacation pay for new employees but lets existing workers keep the current level of benefits.

New hires would accrue 40 hours of paid vacation in the first year. In their second through fifth years of employment, they could earn 80 hours of vacation a year. After six years, the number rises to 120 hours a year.

Current employees receive up to 92 hours of paid vacation per year within their first two years.

The most senior of employees, with 20 years or more of employment, would continue earning 212 vacation hours a year.

Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents the CMCEA, said she would not address the proposal.

"We'd like to reserve comment until if and when the City Council adopts the agreement," she said in an email.

The council offered no public comment on the proposal Tuesday

Last year, Righeimer called the city's contract offers a return to "normalcy," meaning government benefits that more closely reflect those of the private sector.

He was also critical of the government payroll system, calling it a "science of how you can drastically increase your income without the world knowing what you're really making."

CMCEA contract negotiations began in early August 2013, with the city offering a dramatic across-the-board 5% pay cut, 5% increase in pension contributions — both of which would reduce workers' take-home pay — and major reductions to paid vacation and sick time. The contract cost was estimated at $21.6 million annually.

The union responded by calling the offer "offensive." Employees created a website,, to air their views on the negotiations.

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