The following letter to the editor was published in The Beach Reporter newspaper (TBRnews.com) on Thursday, August 23, 2012 in the Letters section. However, it had an editing error, and the correct letter, which appears below, will be reprinted on Thursday, August 30, 2012. The Beach Reporter has a strict 250-word limit.
This letter was submitted in response to The Beach Reporter’s question of the week for the August 16, 2012 edition.
Question of the Week
Hermosa Beach’s police and fire union leaders publicly stated that they’re upset with the city’s proposals after their latest labor negotiations. The union presidents claim they’re facing a 27-percent cut in compensation, which would jeopardize the stability of their already short-staffed departments. They fear additional cuts could pave the way for the county to take over the police and fire departments.
Do you think the police and fire departments can withstand any more cuts?
What are your thoughts about the union leaders going public with their frustrations regarding private contract negotiations?
Should residents be concerned about the county taking over the city’s police and fire departments?
(Editor’s note: Last week’s question asked readers what they thought of the contract negotiations between Hermosa Beach’s police and fire unions and the Hermosa Beach City Council).
New negotiation strategy
Advice to the Hermosa Beach City Council for fire/police union contract negotiations to avoid bankruptcy:
Start negotiating from a blank sheet of paper to eliminate decades of union lawyer tricks and traps that ratcheted up costs.
Read, analyze, understand and price every provision and phrase in existing and new union contracts. Negotiate a not-to-exceed total contract cost based on specified staffing/service levels. Don’t write blank checks with taxpayer money as pension and insurance costs increase.
Do not base compensation on formulas involving compensation in other cities or costs will spiral upward. Do not give up inherent management rights to determine staffing levels, work assignments and layoffs, which are the city’s most important cost-control and bargaining tools.
Include a burden-sharing mechanism that includes thresholds and triggers which automatically reduce total contract costs by specified amounts, and optionally reopen negotiations, when unbudgeted, uncontrolled expenses and revenue declines exceed specified thresholds.
Reduce salaries, and vacation and sick leave hours provided and rolled-over yearly, based on private sector standards — avoid huge leave payouts at higher salaries.
Change pensions to defined contribution plans, or at least reduce the pension formula percentage and increase the retirement age. Employees should pay at least half of all pension contributions.
Eliminate unrelated and redundant “special compensation,” which is mostly for things unrelated to the job or that are existing job or promotion requirements. El Segundo firefighter and police “special compensation” has averaged 28 percent of regular earnings, and it ratchets up city pension costs for employees and their spouses.
Michael D. Robbins