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City proposes 5% pay cut

Workers regard Costa Mesa's opening move in negotiations as offensive, say council views them with contempt.

August 07, 2013|By Bradley Zint

The city of Costa Mesa opened contract negotiations with its largest employee association this week by offering a 5% pay cut, a 5% increase in pension contributions and other sharp reductions in compensation that a workers' representative deemed "offensive."

The plan also proposes another potential 5% pay cut for top-tiered employees — an outcome dependent upon their performance review, for a total of 10% in cuts.

"The city's proposal is a reflection of how the council majority views its dedicated employees — with contempt," Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. President Helen Nenadal said in a prepared statement. "We believe there is a better way, and our proposal will offer accountability for taxpayers, will honor your service and will provide some common-sense approaches to addressing challenges."

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The employees who would be affected by the proposal are not public safety workers.

The two-year proposal, given Tuesday to CMCEA representatives, was called an "extreme proposal" in a comment about the negotiations on the group's newly launched website, CostaMesaWorks.com.

CMCEA, which represents about 200 city workers, posted the 58-page document on the site Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor Jim Righeimer countered that the city employees are, by and large, well compensated. Within the workforce of about 460 full-timers, 310 have total compensation packages — which includes salary, health benefits and pension numbers — amounting to more than $100,000 a year, he said.

"In addition, they have a pension plan that is unheard of in the private sector," Righeimer added. "We always want to make sure that our employees can make a good living, but we have to do what's right for our Costa Mesa residents, who are footing the bill."

He said "there is a reason" the city gets hundreds of applications for job openings, and "It's not because we don't pay enough."

The contract proposal has a provision eliminating the existing requirement of a 30-day layoff notice. Instead, no specified prior notice would be required, other than that it be before a layoff and that the employee be directly contacted.

The city currently gives employees "step increases," or an increase in salary, as they advance in a given job category.

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