Council hearing to break labor impasse - East Valley Tribune: News

Council hearing to break labor impasse

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Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 5:51 pm | Updated: 1:09 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The president of Chandler’s police officers union said he would air dirty laundry about City Manager Mark Pentz’s performance during an unusual City Council hearing Tuesday night aimed at resolving a deadlock in labor contract negotiations.

The city’s existing contracts with the Chandler Service Employees International Union, the Chandler Law Enforcement Association, and the local International Association of Firefighters expire on June 30.

Lombardo Robles, CLEA president, in a May 22 letter requesting the council hearing, called Pentz’s attitude unreasonable and disrespectful. The public perception of Pentz, if the City Council hearing goes forward, “will not be favorable,” Robles wrote.

The hearing was the result of an impasse over two management proposals. The first calls for a one-time, 5 percent merit bonus for all employees in fiscal year 2009-10, according to Pentz’s June 3 memo to council members. The payment would total nearly $2.3 million.

Previously, the annual merit bonuses would increase employees’ base pay, compounding over time. The latest proposal would not increase base pay.

Management also has asked for the ability to renegotiate labor contracts in times of a fiscal crisis, which includes current economic conditions, according to Pentz. Both Peoria and Tempe are attempting to do it, as well, he wrote.

“The current recession and the impact upon our budget would be a good example of circumstances that might necessitate re-opening a contract,” Pentz wrote.

The unions have rejected the proposals, putting the two sides at loggerheads.

Robles responded by saying the city should cut $49 million in funds earmarked for downtown redevelopment — not related to construction for the new City Hall — and $10 million for a business incubator at the Motorola site on Price Road. Pentz refused to discuss the proposals, according to Robles.

James Kame, Chandler SEIU president, said union members offered to reduce work hours, participate in some job-sharing, and undergo furloughs, according to his May 22 protest letter.

“The importance of the merit increase to the employees represented by SEIU cannot be underestimated,” Kame wrote.

Jane Poston, city spokeswoman, said the City Council now will step in to resolve the dispute. However, she said the council might or might not take action Tuesday.

“The City Council can take the unions’ final position, the management’s final position, or something in between,” Poston said.

Check for updates.

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