10:00 PM PST on Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino is using a carrot-and-stick approach to public safety employees in its continuing effort to pare down a $24 million budget deficit.

The City Council voted this past week to end long-stalled negotiations with the union representing city firefighters and to impose 10 percent pay cuts.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting, the council approved a plan to offer retirement incentives to 12 police employees whose departure — depending on how many take the deal — could stave off layoffs in that department.

The city’s labor negotiator, Irma Rodriguez Moisa, told the council that the Inland area, including San Bernardino, has been facing “unprecedented economic times.”

Those challenges prompted the need to seek salary and other labor concessions from all seven employee unions, she said, and the firefighters’ union is the only remaining holdout. She said the union rejected seven proposals put to it since talks began last year.

“The bargaining unit fundamentally has shared that they disagree with our need for concessions,” Moisa said.

Union attorney Corey Glave denied that the city’s final offer had been rejected. He said he was out of the country when the city’s last offer was made and asked the council to call in a state mediator to continue the talks.

Moisa said she attempted to arrange a meeting with a mediator, but Glave would not consent.

The council voted 4-2 to end negotiations with the union and to impose the cuts, with council members Chas Kelley and Wendy McCammack opposed and Councilman Jason Desjardins absent.

A retirement incentive will be offered to the 12 police officers age 50 or older, each with at least 28 years of service. It could save the city as much as $189,800, Assistant Police Chief Mark Garcia said.

The plan would allow the officers to retire as of March 1, immediately collecting half of the money they would be owed for sick and vacation time and the rest next January.

Those employees could then continue to work for the city at their current rate of pay until June 30.

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