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Santa Rosa city employees set to protest Tuesday

Most Santa Rosa city employees have been working without a contract for more than nine months, and they're fed up with it.

Members of the 660-member Santa Rosa City Employees Association are planning to turn out in force at Tuesday's City Council meeting to demonstrate their displeasure.

They say that despite the city's improved budget picture and raises for other employee groups, they continue to be offered a bum deal by the city.

“We're very dissatisfied with the City Council's response to the offers that we've made,” said SRCEA president Mike Reynolds.

He declined to detail the group's latest offer, but in the past has said his members are looking for modest salary increases after several years without raises.

The group's last contract expired July 1, 2013. After several months union leaders declared negotiations had hit an impasse. A state mediator failed to resolve the issues. The union then called for the initiation of a fact-finding hearing.

In February, the independent local union voted to affiliate with the national International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who already represent the six assistant city attorneys.

SRCEA was scheduled to begin its fact-finding hearing April 29, but the union last week requested a postponement, Human Resources Director Fran Elm said.

The fact-finding requested by the assistant city attorneys started in January and continues next week, Elm said.

“I think they want to sit it out and wait and see what happens with the attorneys,” Elm said.

Reynolds said he expects as many as 100 workers wearing white shirts to visit council chambers. The goal is to send city leaders a message that “they've got a lot of very dissatisfied employees,” he said.

The city and SRCEA have discussed a two-year contract with 2 percent raises in the first year and a 2.5 percent pay bump in following year. The raises would be partially offset by a 1.5 percent increase on the contributions employees make to their pensions each year, a deal similar to those accepted by other groups including fire and middle managers, Elm said.

The union wants raises of 2 percent in the first year and 2 to 5 percent in the second year, based on the consumer price index, Elm said.

But its leaders have rejected calls for any hike in employee pension contributions, Elm said. They've cited pay increases members gave up over a decade ago to fund the increased cost of pensions that now pay 3 percent of salary per year of service for those who retire after age 60.

Reynolds said the city hasn't made the group a formal offer since last year, and that one isn't fair compared to the bargaining histories of other unions in the city.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

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