Share the Pain or Assign the Pain
Welcome to 2011! I hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday season and I wish you all a happy 2011. Despite some difficult economic times, we have a great City, much to be thankful for and a lot of important work to do and decisions to make.
We have, in general, the best staff on the Peninsula and perhaps even within a much broader region. I have said that repeatedly and feel no different after my first year on the Council.
During the extraordinary budgeting process that we have been going through I have heard residents complain that our employees are overpaid. I do not agree with that. I have researched and determined that our employees are not the highest paid in their respective categories; they are properly and fairly compensated. While I do have some issues with the pension benefits, there are limits to how those can be addressed, but I believe that they can and will be addressed.
The real problem, as I see it, is that whether our employees are overcompensated, undercompensated or fairly compensated, the fact is that we cannot afford all of our current employees at their current compensation level. Thus, for me, the issue is whether to address that problem in an across the board manner, or to let that burden be borne by a few individuals through job loss. My argument to you, is that the former is preferable to the latter and should be the goal, if possible.
Portions of the City’s represented employees are currently in the midst of a three year contract. That contract provides for modest compensation increases, mostly in the form of health insurance benefits, over the next two years. Foster City has never, in its history, requested changes to existing labor contracts. The reason for that is sound: in normal economic conditions, changing contract terms after you have made a deal makes it more difficult for the other side to trust you in the future; it is harmful to employee morale and likely harmful to employee productivity.
These times, however, are not normal economic times, and so, I argue, some creative thought must be given to the process so that the organization as a whole can function in the best manner possible. One such option should be to work with the labor groups to see if there is a willingness to reopen discussions on the terms of the existing contracts to see if there are alternatives to what are currently recommended to be service cuts and employee layoffs.
In furtherance of that, during the last two public hearings on the budget, I invited the labor groups to work with the Council in partnership to address the financial challenges currently facing the City. If they chose to do so, the City Council would have additional options to consider as it reviews the proposed budget that currently includes recommended service cuts and employee layoffs. As we enter this new year, I again extend an invitation to the employee groups to work with the Council to creatively and positively address the challenges ahead. In partnership I believe we can craft an approach that would be in the best interest of the City’s employees and the community.
Those are my thoughts; I would love to hear yours. You can contact me at email@example.com or (650) 286-3504.
January 05, 2011
Share the Pain or Assign the Pain
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