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City Workers Blast Council
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Pay and benefit negotiations between the City of Riverbank and its miscellaneous workers are collapsing to judge by a press release put out by the workers' union LIUNA, Local 1130.

Vince Courtney, a spokesman for the Laborers International Union North America, LIUNA, was on hand with a crowd of orange-shirted union members from Riverbank at the Monday night council meeting. About 30 miscellaneous employees, with support from family and friends, attended the meeting and urged the council to look for additional ways to balance the budget other than taking away what they feel is an inordinate amount from them in pay and other concessions.

The Riverbank Employees Union "has for years engaged in good faith collective bargaining" with City Manager Rich Holmer (including this year prior to his leaving), the release, which Courtney helped put together, indicated. Holmer was successful at persuading the Union and its negotiators of "the economic necessity" for reducing take home pay by 4.6 percent for fiscal year 2010-2011. The employees voted unanimously on the cut and also conceded tuition provisions and sick leave provisions in their agreement.

For fiscal year 2011-2012, in an effort to share the pain, Riverbank council members voted unanimously to cut their own pay by 4.6 percent to send a message, as Mayor Virginia Madueno put it, and indicate their solidarity with city staff and the community in these difficult economic times.

The 4.6 percent figure mirrors the 2010-2011 reductions of city staff's pay and appears to be the approximate figure for cuts that the administration is again seeking in current negotiations for 2011-2012, said the Union release.

However, although the employees have already ratified a 4.6 percent decrease in pay and the council reduced its own pay by that percentage, 4.6 percent is not the number for the lowest paid city workers. The city has rejected collective bargaining with employees and instead intends unilateral implementation of a pay and benefits cut of 8.1 percent, the release claims.

To make matters worse, according to the release, the city has saved tens of thousands of dollars by unilaterally implementing a health plan that abandoned workers on the "second tier" and could lead to catastrophic results and financial hardship.

The union information - which was provided to The News early afternoon Monday - noted that because the city has declared an impasse and claims the parties are too far apart, the employees are exploring administrative and legal remedies.

Union officials said some employees do not trust the city, largely because of recent costly mistakes such as the issues surrounding the city purchase of the Del Rio building.

City council members were expected to discuss the issue during a closed session late Monday, but information was not available at press time for The News. Councilman Jesse James White drew applause from the large contingent when he said that steeper pay cuts and concessions should come from upper management, not the rank and file.