City counters with smaller pay cut

Costa Mesa officials presented a revised offer to the city's largest municipal employees union Monday that lessened a proposed pay cut.

Officials are now pushing for a 2.5% pay cut for employees, down from the 5% across-the-board reduction the city initially proposed in August. The association represents 186 rank-and-file employees, including non-sworn public safety workers.

But Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Santa Ana-based Orange County Employees Assn., which represents the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn., said the latest offer represents a 7.5% pay cut for about two-thirds of employees, a combination of the proposed 2.5% reduction plus an additional 5% cut for those at the top of their respective pay scales.

The pay reduction would apply to top-range earners who don't receive an "outstanding" performance review, Muir said.

However, it is not possible for employees to achieve that ranking because it is not listed as an option on the city's evaluations, she added.

"It's just a way to hide that all employees at the top of their pay range will be getting a pay cut," she said.

However, city officials said they are not proposing a 7.5% pay cut for anyone. Instead, top-earning employees would not receive regular pay increases for merely satisfactory performance reviews.

Mayor Jim Righeimer asserts the offer isn't a reduction but more of a return to normalcy.

"We have great employees in our city, and we want to make sure they're paid well, but we also have to make sure we're not overpaying them," he said.


CMCEA also proposed a transparency initiative that would require City Council members to disclose campaign contributions and lobbyists they've spoken to when voting on a contract to outsource city services.

"Government operates better when it's transparent," Muir said. "The City Council for a couple years now said they intend to outsource services. It's important for the public to know how they're being influenced."

Righeimer said the initiative has no place in an employee contract.

"That's just basically smoke and mirrors for them to say there's a problem when there isn't," Righeimer said. "It's political spin."

The city's second wage proposal represents a 6.4% decrease in total costs compared with continuing the current contract for the next fiscal year, said city spokesman Bill Lobdell.

The two-year contract the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. initially proposed calls for "common-sense wage metrics," according to the CMCEA's website,

The metrics would provide a half-percent "general wage" increase or decrease for every 1% that the city's general fund increases or decreases.

If the general fund increases by 2%, for instance, CMCEA employees would get a 1% raise. Should the opposite happen, employees would be subject to a 1% decrease, Muir said.

The increase or decrease would take effect Sept. 1 of each year of the contract, using fiscal year 2011-12 as a baseline. Such a change would not affect "step increases" — salary bumps as employees advance in a given job category.

The CMCEA's contract expired in March, but the union and city are still adhering to the terms of that contract until negotiations are finalized.

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