Employee union votes down deal

CITY HALL — Members of the city's largest employee union this week overwhelmingly rejected a proposed one-year contract, leaving the organization at an impasse with the city.

After months of protracted closed-session negotiations between city officials and the Glendale City Employees Assn., the proposed contract was defeated by nearly 87% of the vote, union officials said. City officials had characterized the proposal as the city's "final, best and last offer."

Of the organization's approximately 1,000 members, 717 voted, union President Craig Hinckley said in an e-mail Friday.

Hinckley could not be reached for further comment.

City Council members are scheduled to be briefed on the vote in closed session Tuesday and discuss their options, which could include impasse resolution talks or the imposition of the proposed contract.

"We have to bring this to a conclusion," said City Manager Jim Starbird. "We are midpoint in September, almost a quarter of the way through the year, and we have to get on with it."

Impasse has not been declared with a Glendale employee union in at least 15 years.

Last year, the union had narrowly voted down a proposed contract, but eventually approved the same contract in a second vote a month later.

Although the details of this year's proposed contract were not made public, Human Resources Director Matt Doyle said it included concessions similar to those agreed upon by the Glendale Management Assn., which included higher employee contributions for health-care and pension plans, in addition to a two-tiered retirement system with reduced benefits for all new hires.

City officials said they were disappointed but not surprised by the negative vote, which was recommended by the Glendale City Employees Assn.'s board.

"It still leaves us with a very serious budget problem that we still have to address, as well as long-term cost issues we still have to address," Starbird said. "That's been our main goal. We still have a serious budget problem, and it's not going to be over this year."

Faced with rising employee health-care and pension costs, about $3 million in employee concessions were factored into the $173-million General Fund budget approved by the City Council in July to balance a projected $8.1-million deficit.

But so far, only management-level employees, firefighters and department executives have inked concessions, representing about $1.5 million in savings this year.

Earlier, the police union publicly announced that they had offered significant concessions, but that the city had rejected the deal, which Starbird said at the time did not go far enough. Instead, a scheduled 5% pay raise went into effect for all police officers last month, costing the city about $2.3 million this year.

Starbird has previously said the city's current hiring freeze could bridge the remaining $1.5 million if additional concessions were not reached, but on Tuesday he said that remained uncertain.

"We still have two groups we haven't been able to reach any concessions with," he said. "That leaves a pretty big hole in the goal we have set. So it remains to be seen."

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