No progress on Fremont public safety union give-backs

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.

Matt Artz


  1. Even if they agree that future employees will get less generous pension benefits, that doesn’t change what current employees will get.

    I’m not sure what kind of employee turnover Fremont projects, but in San Jose it’s something like 30% in 5 years and 50% in 10. This means that in 10 years, half of SJ’s employees will be under the lower tier pension.

  2. Two-tier pensions are unethical. The old screw the young.

    Employers like our city should make fixed contributions to the pension funds, based on contract negotiation, with employees paying the difference of what the pension funds needs. In good times, the employees will get more cash in their pockets. In bad times, they’ll still get their pension, but they’ll have to pay for it. Teachers, who get less of a pension at a later age, will have to pay less. Police and firefighters, who get amazing benefits, will have to pay more, and in some years like this, much more.

    It’s fair. What’s wrong with it?

  3. Jon,
    Are you a Fireman? Maybe a Public Relations spokesman for Mayor Wasserman?
    I agree cut, the pensions across the board. Let them strike they apparently have a lot of money, they spent thousands on the Fremont City Council race.
    Now lets see How Harrison and Anu, deal with it!

  4. “”…30% in 5 years and 50% in 10. This means that in 10 years, half of SJ’s employees will be under the lower tier pension”

    Sounds swell in theory – in practice the turnover rate is actually much much higher than the statistical average for newbies while the “oldsters” are busy standing around waiting for retirement . . . so, while you start out thinking that a 50% turnover will help the balance sheet a little, in reality, a considerably smaller fraction of the positions actually change butts.

  5. West,

    No, but I was a public school teacher and my wife is one. Striking is bad and public employees should not be pushed into it. They should be pushed into a compromise that makes sense. Paying for their own retirement is good, and they likely won’t strike over that. It will make them look bad, and they’ll lose in the end anyway. These unending future obligations are just killing cities and the state.

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