The Turlock City Council voted to implement contracts with the City’s police and fire unions after negotiations reached impasse.
The Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO) and Turlock Firefighters Local 2434 are the only two unions not to come to an agreement with the City for new deals since all employee contracts expired on June 30, 2019.
According to City and union negotiators, the points of contention in the contracts are a redesigned healthcare plan that sees employees paying more out of pocket and a lowered deferred compensation amount paid to employees who decline the City’s healthcare plan.
A report released by Transparent California found Turlock had the third highest average employee healthcare costs in the state at $23,933.
“A major term is the proposal to redesign the City’s healthcare plan and to bring it more in line with today’s current system…along with that change there would be some deductibles and out of pocket amounts that would apply to our employees. However, the City, through negotiation process and in its last, best and final offer, did agree to continue paying 100 percent of the premium for the employees and the families,” said the City of Turlock’s negotiator, Kevin Dale.
The City is also proposing to reduce the amount of compensation of in lieu amounts from $952 to half of that so the employees who do not participate in healthcare through the City would receive $475 per month into their deferred compensation plan.
Both the police and fire union representatives stated that their members have been sacrificing for the welfare of the City for years and it can’t continue.
TAPO representative David Garcia said that members of the union started working to help lower healthcare costs six years with then city manager Gary Hampton. When Hampton came to the police union with the fact that Turlock is paying the most in healthcare costs when compared to similar cities, Garcia said TAPO members worked to find a cheaper plan with the agreement that savings would be put into salaries to aid with officer recruitment and retention.
“What happens? In essence, after the Association agreed to this package collaborative healthcare bargaining provision, the City pulls back. And now I’m told the City Council wishes to eliminate that provision while keeping the savings. That’s tantamount to bad faith bargaining. It’s an unfair labor practice,” said Garcia. “The men and women of my organization came forward to good faith, sat down, rolled their sleeves up, helped with the City’s issue and now we feel the rug is being pulled out from under us. That’s unfair. If the members of my organization can’t trust the City Council, how our citizens of this city trust the City Council? What else will you change or flop on?”
Firefighters Local 2434 representative David Bickle talked about how the firefighters accepted pay cuts and increases in employee contributions to retirement funds starting during the recession and moving forward.
“Starting in 2008 and lasting for 10 years, firefighters had no pay raise and actually gave up benefits costing individuals money to assist the City during difficult financial years. Firefighters have only received a 7 percent pay raise in the last two years, that’s only 7 percent over the past 12 years,” said Bickle.
He also pointed to 2017 total comprehensive compensation study for the entire City that found the fire department is paid 25 percent below medium wage of comparison cities.
“The union has offered to work with the City on negotiations pertaining specifically to healthcare costs. The City has refused offers for the union to pay part of their own healthcare. The City only wanted the plan they offered. The plan the City offered will burden the employee with a $5,000 out of pocket expense. This equates to a 7 to 9 percent reduction in money the employee takes home. Essentially, the City is asking firefighters to do the same job with less pay,” continued Bickle.
According to Dale, the City of Turlock has followed all the state requirements regarding a union impasse and was unable to move forward.
With no comment from the Mayor or any Council members, the City Council voted 5-0 to implement the City’s last, best and final offers to each respective union.