The city of Oceanside’s mid-range employees are in the middle of a wage dispute battle with city hall. They’ve been working without a contract since July 1.
At the council meeting on October 3, their union, Municipal Employees City of Oceanside, were told that the city’s latest offer was the “last, best, and final” to be made by the city.
The city is currently offering no wage increase, only a step (ranking of employment level) increase of two percent for those that have been with the city more than six years.
The 75 union-represented employees, mostly middle managers and executive secretaries, had a 4.5 percent raise since 2010. “That amounts to about $1.00 per hour,” said Bryan Forward, the union’s president. Forward works in the Public Works department as the ordinance enforcement supervisor.
Forward estimated the union members now earn from $20.37 an hour to $58.37/hour.
“The San Diego consumer price index went up 20.5 percent since 2010,” said Forward, who thinks the city was shocked at the union's initial request to make up the difference – a 16 percent increase in salaries.
After the first council meeting, the union looked to what the city pays its private contractors. “The biggest contractor, Waste Management, the city’s hired trash haulers, got a 12.74 percent increase since 2010,” said Forward.
The union is now asking for an 8.24 percent increase, making up the raise difference between city workers and private contractors.
At the most recent council meeting in October 17, 30 union members addressed the council, and the city’s negotiator, city manager Michelle Lawrence. Even with the big guns of the national union organization, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees showing up with posters and color coordinated arm bands, the employees were told the same – last, best, and final offer.
“Since 2010, the city manager has received a 35 percent increase, and department directors, a 15-20 percent increase,” said Forward.
State regulations require one last meeting with the city manager before declaring the situation at an impasse. That’s when the state’s Public Employment Relations Board gets involved. The board will require fact-finding and arbitration; comparing wages of other similar cities and job descriptions. However its decision is not binding on the union.
The union has a “no strike” clause, so what happens if the two sides can’t agree? “There would more strife in this city than anyone wants to see,” said Forward.