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City approves new contract with labor union

Local members of the SEIU finalize deal with Santa Clarita for 77 city employees

Posted: December 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.

After 14 months of negotiations, the city of Santa Clarita has struck a labor deal that will give a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to 77 city employees, officials said Tuesday.

Santa Clarita City Council members voted Tuesday night to approve terms of the agreement between the city and members of the Service Employees International Union Local 721. SEIU has made headlines recently with a strike that began last week against Los Angeles County.

The contract between the city and SEIU Local 721 expired at the end of 2012. Negotiations started in October 2012 and included 19 meetings over a 14-month period, according to city Human Resources Manager Jennifer Curtis.

“Overall, the city’s relations with the union are good,” Curtis said Tuesday. “That doesn’t mean we always agree, but they have been professional and courteous in their talks with us.”

One of the major provisions in the memorandum of understanding agreement is a cost-of-living adjustment of 5 percent for city employees who are members of SEIU Local 721, effective Jan. 3 of next year, according to Curtis.

Those employees have not received a cost-of-living adjustment since 2011, according to Curtis.

About 77 of the city’s approximately 370 employees are members of SEIU Local 721, Curtis said. Many of those employees work in labor positions such as grounds keeping, street maintenance and building inspection.

Pay for those represented employees falls between $19.41 and $34.17 per hour, according to Curtis, so the adjustment would increase pay by 97 cents to $1.71 per hour.

While the union-represented workers will receive a 5 percent COLA, some of the longer-tenured union employees in the city will be kicking some of it back in the form of pension contributions, Curtis said.

Those pension contributions will be about 3 percent, Curtis said.

The terms of the agreement result in a city budget increase of $137,905 for the remaining six months of the 2013-2014 fiscal year. But the city will also reduce its pension costs by an estimated $50,974, meaning the net budget impact for the current fiscal year will be an estimated $86,931, according to city officials.

The agreement runs through June 30, 2016.

Thousands of SEIU Local 721 members, many of them social workers in Los Angeles County, remain on strike as of Tuesday evening and are continuing to lobby for the county to hire additional social workers to reduce case loads.

“We’ve made it clear that we’re serious about change and we will not stop until L.A. County commits in writing to safer social worker-to-child ratios,” reads a post on the SEIU Local 721 website.
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