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Unions, PERB Ask Judge To Stop Pension Initiative

Lawyers for a city of San Diego employee labor union and the state Public Employment Relations Board asked a judge today to halt the implementation of a voter-approved pension reform initiative.

At a hearing last month, lawyers for the Municipal Employees Association and PERB told San Diego Superior Court Judge Luis Vargas they want a temporary restraining order issued before the results of Proposition B are certified by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. That's supposed to happen around the middle of this month.

The ballot measure was supported by 66 percent of voters in the June 6 election. When implemented, it would have the city of San Diego issue new employees -- other than police officers -- 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of enrolling them in the debt-ridden pension system.

The measure also calls for a five-year period in which municipal workers can only use base salary when computing their retirement payouts. They would not be able to include bonuses or other special pay.

Union leaders opposed both provisions and went to court to prevent Proposition B from appearing on the ballot. They failed to prevent the vote, but obtained rulings that substantive issues could be litigated after the election.

After today's hearing, the judge told the lawyers for both sides he would issue a ruling soon.

The unions contend they should have been consulted before the measure went on the ballot, but the City Attorney's Office issued an opinion saying the step was not necessary until the provisions were ready to be implemented.

City leaders have taken initial steps to develop the 401(k)-style plan because, once the election results are certified, they won't be able to hire new workers until the revised retirement benefit is in place. MEA lawyers want implementation of Proposition B to be held off for least three months to avoid a city hiring freeze.

PERB also has a hearing scheduled for later this month.

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