Daly City seeks end to union stalemate

Six months after contract negotiations began, the union for the Daly City Police Department and the city are calling on a state mediator to help them reach an agreement on retirement and medical benefits starting in early January.

The Daly City Police Officers Association, which represents 113 police managers and officers, reached an impasse with the city earlier this month when the two sides could not agree on improving medical benefits. Police officers currently receive $680 toward their health care costs.

“Increase in medical costs is a huge thing,” said Jeff Rodriguez, the union’s president. “I have two children and I pay a couple of hundred dollars toward medical benefits and that goes up every year. We’re trying to catch that so it wouldn’t be $300 next year and $400 the year after that.”

The city’s operating budget is currently more than $68 million, which pays for more than 800 city employees.

The police association is just one of the unions that Daly City has been negotiating with since this summer. New agreements are also due for several hundred other city employees, including firefighters, librarians and clerical staff. Neither city officials nor employees could comment on the specifics of the ongoing negotiations. Only the police union has thus far reached an impasse in talks, but many are concerned about medical benefits.

“The city is trying to restructure our health care benefits,” said Nadia Bledsoe, negotiator for local union of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents librarians, custodians, engineers, building inspectors and others. “[We] need protection from rising health care costs.”

Bledsoe said the union is also asking for vision coverage that the city does not provide, and improved dental benefits.

“Public employees come to work for the city knowing that they can get more in the private sector in exchange for secure benefits and retirement,” she said. “Daly City’s plight is no different than any other city on the Peninsula.”

John Noble, negotiator for the police and fire unions, explained that negotiations are taking so long because the two sides started the process only when the old contracts expired. He said negotiations usually begin six months in advance. The last negotiations with the police union, in 2005, lasted more than a year.

According to Bledsoe, AFSCME was ready to begin negotiations in May, but the city was not ready until the summer.

Vice Mayor Maggie Gomez said she could not comment on the state of negotiations. The state mediator will meet with the city and the police union Jan. 9.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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