Three city employee groups sign, others still at bargaining table
Three employee groups had contracts certified last week, with three more groups still at the bargaining table.
The Claremont city council unanimously approved memoranda of understanding with the Claremont Employee Association (CEA), the Claremont Professional Employees Association (CPEA) and the Claremont Administrative and Technical Support Employees Association (CATSEA) during the November 26 council meeting.
The employee groups were without contracts since July 1, according to Claremont personnel manager Jason Barber. Negotiations with the groups and city management have been ongoing since March.
The contracts retroactively start on July 1 and last until June 30, 2020, Mr. Barber said.
Notable in the MOUs are one-time bonus payments of $1,000 given to employees after a surplus of $373,186 was found in the 2019-2020 budget. Language in the MOUs state that if a surplus is realized, half of it will be put toward bonuses, while the other half will be put into the general fund’s operating reserves.
The cap is $1,000 per employee, according to the MOUs. Last year, the city gave out $718 in one-time bonuses to city employees when a smaller surplus was found.
City Manager Tara Schultz said the formula for determining bonuses is to divide the budget surplus in half, and award each employee an equal share, with $1,000 being the maximum. If the money is available to reach the maximum bonus, the formula does not allow for a reduction to pay for other expenses.
“When we were sharing, it got to that cap for everybody,” she said.
She stressed that the one-time bonuses were not a long-term cost for the city, as opposed to cost-of-living increases (COLAs). “We can’t afford to give raises to anybody,” she said.
Not all of the $186,593 set aside for bonuses will be distributed right away—the cost of the bonuses in the three approved MOUs will be $89,227, the city said, and $97,336 will be set aside for contracts that are yet to be approved.
City management asked the employee groups to come up with other ways to be compensated in lieu of a COLA or salary increase, Mr. Barber said.
Each employee group got free Claremont Hills Wilderness Park passes, one free ticket each to the Fourth of July fireworks show and two additional floating holiday days, Mr. Barber said.
The CEA will also be compensated for up to four hours at the DMV to obtain a class A drivers’ license, Mr. Barber said.
The CPEA was also granted a salary survey to be conducted at the beginning of the new year. Salary surveys compare Claremont salaries to those of neighboring cities. If the surveys show that Claremont employees’ salaries fall below the median, they will be raised in July 2020 to stay competitive, Mr. Barber said.
Ms. Schultz said the survey would move from job to job to see if that employee’s pay is above, at or below the median for nearby cities. But not everyone will get a salary adjustment, she added.
The CATSEA will receive increased bilingual pay from $50 to $75 a month, a 30 percent family discount on recreation classes, a salary survey, and the ability to choose where to remove leave time—either sick time, admin time or vacation time.
“We hope to be able to retain the current employees that we have, as it demonstrates that we truly value their hard work,” Mr. Barber said.
At last week’s meeting, resident Matt Magilke asked the council why the bonus money couldn’t be used on deferred maintenance projects at the Hughes Center or the Joslyn Senior Center.
Ms. Schultz said part of the surplus could still be used for those projects, but the goal was to first replenish the operating reserves.
“And from there, if something comes up and we need to access it right away, we can ask the council to appropriate from the reserves,” she said.
At last week’s council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder said that if the bonuses were not distributed per the terms in the contract, an employee group might file a lawsuit.
When asked how the public would react if an employee group did file a suit because of not receiving the full bonus, Ms. Schultz said, “I don’t know if I have an answer to that question.”
“It is a breach of contract if we don’t fulfill the terms of the contract,” Ms. Schultz added. “Just like any contract.”
POLICE STILL WITHOUT CONTRACTS
A notable absence from the group of approved MOUs is the Claremont Police Officers’ Association, which has been in a battle with the city over contract terms for nearly a year and a half.
The Claremont Police Management Association (CPMA) and the Claremont Management Association (CMA) are also still without contracts.
In a statement, the CPOA said that, “although there is some consensus that policing-public safety is the highest priority in Claremont, council actions are not matching their words.”
In June, the city council imposed terms and conditions of employment with the police officers, as opposed to a memorandum of understanding, after talks broke down.
Det. Matt Hamill, the head of the CPOA, said the association and the city will meet Thursday for further negotiations. Part of what the CPOA is asking for is a salary increase, which the city said it has denied due to its current budget situation.
“The failure of Measure CR—and previous ballot measures—is not the fault of residents, businesses, or employees, but is on the shoulders of city management and the council,” the CPOA said. “A clear message was sent by residents that city hall must change for trust to be restored.”
The CPOA said Claremont officers are ranked eleventh out of 12 similar cities in officer compensation, leading to low morale and officers leaving.
“Other cities comparable to Claremont in similar financial situations are thriving and attracting veteran officers because they’ve made clear choices to retain and attract the most professional police force for the benefit of their city,” the CPOA said.
Ms. Schultz told the COURIER she could not comment on ongoing negotiations with employee groups.
“The council’s failure to adequately manage the city is the only issue,” the CPOA said, “and draconian cuts to fulfill on the doomsday scenario used to sell the failed ballot measure is still not listening to residents who want greater transparency and responsible governance.”