The City of Long Beach recently completed negotiating a new contract with the Long Beach Firefighters Association, which followed the approval last month of a revised agreement with the Long Beach Police Officers Association.  Both of these contracts had several more years left to run, and the City is fortunate that both labor organizations were willing to accept reductions in the middle of the contact.

Both of these agreements achieve two important objectives.  First, new employees will receive the reduced pension benefit of 2% per year of service at retirement age 50 (otherwise known as 2@50).  This is the benefit both employee organizations received prior to the significant pension increases that were granted in 2000 and 2001 and increased employee pensions by 50% to 3@50.

Secondly, both Police Officers and Firefighters agreed to increase their share of the employee CalPERS payment from a rate of 2% of payroll to the maximum payment of 9% of payroll.  The initial objective of reducing pension benefits to new employees will provide long term savings, and increasing the employee CalPERS payment provides immediate cost savings.

One of the other benefits is that the City of Long Beach will be able to hire additional Firefighters and Police Officers as our ranks deplete due to retirements.  Due to the unsustainable pension system, I was adamantly opposed to adding any more employees to a pension system we couldn’t afford.  The City of Long Beach has an outstanding Police Chief (Jim McDonnell) who thru the use of technology and improved management practices has been able to maintain, and even improve, public safety in our City as his ranks have been reduced.  However, in the near future it will no doubt be necessary to replenish our police and fire departments, and we will now have the ability to do so.

These two contact changes add to reduced pension agreements that were negotiated with several other Long Beach labor organizations over the last year, and imposed on our Engineers union.  The last remaining group is the International Association of Machinists (IAM).