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San Diego City Council Moves Toward Raise For City Workers

San Diego City Council Moves Toward Raise For City Workers
The city of San Diego's white-collar workers can expect two raises under a tentative agreement the City Council approved. The agreement would cost $37.7 million over four years.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved a tentative four-year agreement with the city's largest public sector union, giving white-collar city workers two raises in 2019 and 2020.

The memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Municipal Employees Association lays out a number of increases to city workers' benefits, including 160 hours of paid parental leave, expanded bereavement leave and more tuition reimbursement for job-related training.

The agreement offers no increases to pensionable compensation for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, in compliance with the city's 2012 pension control law Proposition B, but it offers a pair of 3.3 percent raises in the last two years of the agreement. City staffers estimate the total fiscal impact over the four years of the deal at $37.7 million.

The council voted 8-1 to approve the agreement, with Councilman Scott Sherman dissenting. Union members had ratified the agreement in October.

San Diego has had difficulty attracting and retaining skilled workers like engineers, building inspectors and surveyors since city workers were asked to forgo raises amid the economic recession.

"These are high-level, highly competitive jobs, and the compensation levels of the city simply are not competitive," said Mike Zucchet, general manager of the Municipal Employees Association. "And so in a competitive environment, we've been losing."

Councilman Todd Gloria said city employees are faced with the same financial challenges that private sector workers face in San Diego.

"They grapple with the high cost of living in our town — rising rents, more expensive water and electricity rates," Gloria said. "To do that in a context of no increases for many, many years is difficult."

The deal with the union mirrors the 3.3 percent wage increases won by the police union in July.

The city and the Municipal Employees Association are still in the early stages of discussing the thorny issue of managed competition, which allows the city to contract with private companies for some city services.