Unions balk at pay cut plan


At least two of the unions that represent Las Vegas city employees are balking at the prospect of a 16 percent pay cut over the next two years, despite the city's stance that layoffs are inevitable if wages aren't rolled back and raises eliminated.

The city's marshals contend the proposed 8 percent cuts in each of the next two budget years are too much, said Chris Collins, president of the Police Protective Association, which represents the group.

It's a position shared by some members of the Las Vegas City Employees Association, said the group's president, Don King.

"The general synopsis was that the city was asking for an awful lot," King said. "We've taken a big hit already."

King said the union, which is the largest of the groups representing city employees, is going to wait until the city finishes talking with other unions before negotiating.

"We believe we're the only ones who gave what the city was asking for last time, so that's why we're waiting," he said.

A budget hearing has been scheduled for March 10. A city spokesman said a layoff estimate has not been computed because economic conditions are in flux.

Last month, City Manager Betsy Fretwell told the unions that the city was proposing the wage cuts to meet a $69 million shortfall in the 2011 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2010. Her plan called for making up that deficit in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

All city workers, not just unionized ones, would take the pay cut.

The savings would be $21.5 million in 2011 and $20 million in 2012, with the remaining shortage to be made up with cuts elsewhere.

Additionally, pay increases -- including cost-of-living, step raises, and merit and longevity pay -- would be eliminated, and there would be no promise to restore those in the future.

Four unions represent about 90 percent of city workers. One round of contract changes already has been completed. Those revisions were aimed at slowing the growth of personnel costs, not reducing them.

Since the unions have contracts with the city governing pay and benefits, both sides must agree to any changes before they can be implemented.

Dean Fletcher, head of the city firefighters union, declined to comment. A representative of the union representing detention center workers could not be reached for comment.

Collins and King said they would be scrutinizing city finances to see if there was another way to answer the ever-widening budget gap, a product of the ongoing recession.

Collins said he sent over a proposal for a 36-hour workweek. He also said marshals could step up collections of unpaid parking tickets and outstanding municipal court warrants as a means of generating revenue.

"Instead of patrolling the park -- which I'm not saying isn't important -- you cruise through the park, then you go bang on 10 doors," Collins said. "We're trying to think outside the box."

Those funds probably wouldn't be sufficient, city spokesman Jace Radke said, especially since that revenue is already used for other costs, such as the debt service on the city's downtown parking garage.

King said "another big factor" is the city's position that there are no guarantees -- even with the concessions, layoffs could still occur.

"We can give them everything they ask for and they can still lay off everybody," he said. "That's a hard pill for my people to take."

There is a sense of inevitability, said Collins. "There are going to be some layoffs" -- at least, that's his opinion.

"Are there going to be some in the public safety sector? Yes, I believe there will be," he continued. "How many? I don't know."

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

 

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