When the Davis City Council imposed its last, best and final offer on the Davis City Employee’s Association (DCEA) last May, it was in violation of the city’s negotiation procedures, ruled the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) on Oct. 31.
The city’s offer created budgetary all-funds savings of $507,000 and General Fund savings of $203,000 during the 2010 fiscal year, according to the staff report from May 25, 2010.
According to the ruling, the city denied violating its own negotiation rules, which are in the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA).
“In California, employees can form associations, like unions,” said Davis City attorney Harriet Steiner. “Associations engage in collective bargaining with the city. If they can’t reach an agreement, either side can declare impasse.”
According to the city’s rules, when impasse — a negotiatory stalemate — is reached, an impartial mediator is brought in to help resolve the matter.
“If the parties still cannot reach an agreement, the next step is fact-finding prior to the city being able to impose the terms and conditions of the contract,” said Assistant City Manager Paul Navazio.
Unlike private party negotiation, the employer and employee engage in nonbinding arbitration — the third party comes makes a determination about the case, but it’s not binding on either party.
“The city and DCEA started down the road to that process,” Steiner said. “The city tried to schedule fact finding, but we were unable to come up with a date that could accomplish the process in a reasonable amount of time. We imposed the contract because the process was taking way too long.”
“The charge was that the city failed to follow its own locally adopted rules for dealing with impasse on a labor contract by prematurely imposing the contract on the group,” Navazio said.
The new contract made changes to the number of furlough days and amount of cost sharing for health insurance and retirement benefits.
The city required that employees take 12 furlough days in the 2010 fiscal year, all to be taken before Jun. 30, 2010, stated the staff report.
The amount of money employees could cash-out on their health insurance was capped, as were employee insurance rates.
“Employees were also asked to pay for any increase in employee cost of retirement,” Navazio said.
DCEA was the only group, of which they imposed similar contracts on, unable to come to an agreement with the city, Navazio said.
“If the PERB’s decision was to stand, the city would have to pay the employees the difference between the old and new contract,” Steiner said.
The city council had 20 days as of Oct. 31 to decide whether they are going to appeal the PERB’s ruling, but so far a decision has not been made. Council must make a decision by Friday.
“The city believes that it took appropriate action to bring the impasse process to conclusion in the face of significant delays by DCEA and the city’s budgetary issues,” said Councilmember Stephen Souza. “The decision does not appear to account for any time urgency in reaching a conclusion to the bargaining, which the city believes is important to both sides. The council will as this process continues determine if it will appeal the decision.”
“The city believes that it has and continues to bargain in good faith with its employee groups. It is also important to the long-term stability of the city to reach agreements with the employee groups that will effectuate long term budget stability for the city and long term stability for the employees,” Souza said.
EINAT GILBOA can be reached email@example.com.