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Laguna Police, Firefighters in Talks Over New Contracts

A firefighter is showered off in June after decontaminating a Cypress Drive apartment vandalized with a caustic stink bomb.

A tentative agreement with Laguna Beach firefighters and a separate progress report on negotiations with police employees was to be reviewed at a special meeting of Laguna Beach’s City Council on Monday.

No formal action on either agreement was expected this week, though finalized contracts should be ready to present to the City Council next month, City Atty. Phil Kohn said.

“Discussions are still taking place,” said Kohn, who characterized on-going talks as a positive signal that agreements will be reached.

The city’s contract with its third employee group, 107 municipal workers and fulltime lifeguards, is not under review and remains in force until June 2013. Due to fiscal constraints and to avoid layoffs, municipal employees agreed to forego 5-percent pay raises in 2010 and 2011, said Scott Diederich, president of the Municipal Employees Association.

Firefighters held two sessions last week with the city’s negotiating teams and a mediator, said John Latta, business agent for firefighters Local 3631, representing Laguna’s 36-person staff in contract talks. “I left with the belief it was a tentative agreement,” said Latta, who hopes to learn from the special session whether council members preliminarily agree to the pact.

As does Larry Bammer, president of the Police Employees Assoc., who wants to ensure his members’ pay and benefits remain competitive with firefighters.

Firefighters could be asked to vote on the contract as early as next week, said Latta, who declined to disclose the term of the proposed pact or any of the provisions on the table.

While city officials have balanced the last two years of operating deficits by selectively reducing expenses, the city’s retirement costs are rising to make up for investment losses by the state Employee Retirement System.

Firefighters’ previous five-year contract awarded them an 11 percent cost of living adjustment in 2006 and 5-percent pay increases in each of the four succeeding years. Pay also included a retirement contribution equal to 9 percent of salary, equal to retirement benefit pay for police.

The previous three-year contract with police employees awarded them an 8 percent cost of living adjustment in 2007, 5 percent in each succeeding year, but included a one-year contract extension without salary or benefit increases.

Police negotiations affecting the department’s 75 employees, including sergeants, sworn and civilian personnel, are not as far along as firefighters, said Bammer, who expects a reply to the latest police offer on Aug. 31.

Police employees would prefer an 18-month contract, allowing negotiations in a succeeding pact to occur prior to the adoption of the city budget, Bammer said. “If there is a dire need for money, we’re willing to work with the city,” he said, pointing out his recommendation would be to eliminate two, unfilled top-brass positions in the department budget before pay concessions are considered elsewhere.

Two lieutenants currently supervise the department’s patrol and investigations division, which also includes clerical and animal control officers. Prior to Paul Workman’s promotion to chief, three captains headed the divisions.

 

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