Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.
By Steven Tavares.

Ten months after contracts for nearly 300 Hayward city employees expired, the City Council may decide Tuesday night to unilaterally impose its last, best and final offer despite declining to meet with labor negotiators since July. Both contracts represent immediate five percent cuts in pay.

If approved, union officials said Monday, the city’s proposal will decrease paychecks an average of $350-per-month. In the past, city employees have agreed to givebacks in wages and benefits of 12 percent since 2010, said union leaders.

Hayward’s aggressive move follows a fact-finding report issued last week recommending negotiators from the city and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 narrow the list of items currently under consideration.

The three-person panel comprised of an appointed member of both bargaining groups and an independent chairperson urged the city to institute gradual pay increases for clerical and maintenance workers of 4 percent through January 2016 and an additional 2-3 percent depending on the financial health of the city pegged to the consumer price index. A $750 bonus upon the signing the agreement was also recommended.

Hayward city officials portrayed the panel’s findings in a positive light, according to an official response to the report, yet its rejection notice heavily opposes a majority of the panel’s suggestions, including raises.

Meanwhile, the city is sticking to its demand of across-the-board pay cuts of five percent leading to the recommendation the City Council take the unusual step Tuesday night of potentially imposing its final offer on city employees.

Over the past year, Hayward city officials have taken a hard line against both bargaining groups, citing a disputed 10-year fiscal outlook projecting its finances fall into the red starting in 2018. At the same time, City Manager Fran David has consistently voiced alarm over the city’s ability to pay rising unfunded liabilities. For the most part, the Hayward City Council has followed David’s lead even though the city is decided pro-labor and includes a mayoral election this June featuring three members of the current council–all counting on union support as a path to victory.

At the same time, union members have routinely filled the City Council over most of the past year. The tenor of negotiations has also been both public and vitriolic with both sides claiming the other is acting unreasonably. Last August, union leaders openly charged management with threatening layoffs if the city’s offer was not approved. In fact, finding common ground has been difficult since last spring.

The union approved a strike in June, while the city declared negotiations at an impasse in late July. In August, union members staged a three-day strike followed by mediation talks that went nowhere. A fact-finding panel was then ordered and conducted in late November and December of last year and culminating with the report released to the public last week.

John Stead-Mendez, deputy Director of SEIU Local 1021 and lead negotiator said. “We have tried to work with city officials over and over, but since July 2013, they have refused to meet with us nor move off their original position of ‘no.’ That’s not bargaining.”

However, the fact-finding panels report may be a ray of hope for a resolution to the city’s labor strife, if the City Council refrains from imposing its final offer. “The report represents a good compromise, which we can accept,” said Stead-Mendez.