Chantal M. Lovell, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/25/2011 08:12:51 PM PDT

REDLANDS – Some city employee bargaining units are still willing to work with the City Council subcommittee negotiating with them over the past few months.

The council labor subcommittee, consisting of Mayor Pete Aguilar and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Foster, issued a news release over the weekend saying that because not all of the city’s nine employee bargaining units could agree to paying 4 percent of the employee share of their retirement contributions, the council would look to fill the projected $2.5 million to $3 million deficit for 2011-12 by other means.

Some labor group leaders said they want to continue to negotiate with the council subcommittee.

“We are still very much willing to work with the city to solve the budget problem,” said Redlands fire Battalion Chief Jim Topoleski, president of the Redlands Association of Fire Management Employees. “It matters to us in terms of meeting the needs of the residents of Redlands.”

Though contracts of all city employees last through at least June 30, 2012, all units met with Aguilar and Foster to discuss the possibility of renegotiating the contracts before their expiration.

Currently, the city pays the 7percent of “employee” share for the Public Employee Retirement System for nonsafety employees and the 12.4 percent “employer” share. For safety employees, the numbers are 93 percent and 26.3 percent, respectively, according to the news release.

The council asked that all employees pay 4percent of the employee share of PERS in order to prevent “drastic cuts in service.” The proposal is in addition to furloughs employees agreed to beginning in 2007 and that are still continuing.

A.K. Smiley Public Library Associate Archivist Nathan Gonzales, president of the Redlands Association of Mid-Management Employees, said his unit was willing to contribute the 4percent and agreed with the universal approach.

“It’s important that all the city employees are treated equally so you don’t have one group making sacrifices and one not,” said Gonzales.

Topoleski had a different take.

“I don’t feel like being penalized based on whether other units choose to negotiate or not negotiate,” he said.

Monday, Topoleski submitted a letter to the mayor saying what his group was willing to contribute. In exchange for an extension of the current contract through June 30, 2014, and an amendment to one of its articles, his group would contribute 5percent of the employee PERS contribution.

If the city agrees to extend the contract to June 30, 2015, his group would agree to pay the entire 9 percent safety employee contribution.

On Monday, Aguilar said the city is still willing to negotiate with groups and will begin to look at individual offers.

“The door is always open,” Aguilar said. “Our strategy was to receive the ($1.28 million) in employee contribution savings.”

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