Fremont’s budget is predicated on employee union concessions this year. Non-sworn unions have agreed to take six furlough days that will keep City Hall closed for the last two weeks of December.
But furloughs don’t work so well for police and firefighters. The city is asking them to make similar wage concessions by take scheduled vacation unpaid. So far the unions have declined.
If no agreement is reached, more cuts could be needed to balance the budget.
I talked to Police Union president Greg Pipp this evening. He said the police union is willing to negotiate, but that the city has refused to consider their proposals.
“We’re willing to sit down and talk about it,” Pipp said. “But it can’t just be a take it or leave it.”
Pipp said officers are concerned that they’re going to agree to a give-back this year and then when their contract expires next year, the city will ask for another give-back.
“If we were going to take the furlough, there would be some type of extension of the contract so come next July we no were not taking another cut,” he said.
I also asked Pipp about cop pension rates. He said that it was the city that came to the union looking to give them the better retirement benefit (about eight years ago) in return for giving up some raises and contributing more to their pensions.
There’s not much that the city or the union can do about soaring pension rates. Even if they agree that future employees will get less generous pension benefits, that doesn’t change what current employees will get.
I asked City Manager Fred Diaz how the city can have adequate staffing when its paying so much for pensions.
Here’s what he said:
I don’t see it as different than any other increased cost that any other employer has to deal with. You obviously have to absorb the (pension) hits and find the revenue from some place. A trimming of expenditure will have to occur …To pay for those retirement costs, we’ll have to lower our expenditures.
And here’s what Pipp said about the public safety pension rates:
“We’ll do our part as city employees to make sure the city will be viable. We don’t have any interest in bankrupting the city.”
Councilmember Bob Wieckowski had something very different to say about the budget. I’ll share that soon, but not before I talk to him about it.