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City employee union offers to take furloughs, pay cut

Updated Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | 6:11 p.m.

The Las Vegas City Employees Association has extended a new offer to the city in lieu of layoffs -- a second one that doesn't involve the 16 percent pay cut the city would like the union to take over the next two years.

The LVCEA, which has 1,036 members, has offered an eight-point plan that includes forgoing a 3 percent cost-of-living increase next year and would have each employee take 96 hours of furlough time during the year.

The offer says the money saved would be used solely to "reverse dollar for dollar some or all of the Tier II layoffs of LVCEA positions that are currently pending."

Don King, the union's president, said the LVCEA presented it to the city last Friday and is asking the city to respond by this upcoming Friday.

The City Council has approved a tentative budget that would fire 146 employees to save about $38 million as part of cutbacks designed to stave off a $70 million shortfall next year.

Mayor Oscar Goodman and City Manager Betsy Fretwell have offered the LVCEA and the city's other bargaining groups the option of taking a salary cut of 8 percent this year and another 8 percent next year as a way to save all employees' jobs and keep city services from being cut.

However, none of the unions agreed to those cuts, so the City Council went ahead with the option of cutting programs and laying off employees in its tentative budget.

In the meeting when the tentative budget was approved, Goodman had presented the idea of firing all of the city's employees and hiring back the ones who agreed to work a reduced work schedule in order to balance the budget and keep anyone from being laid off. He has since backed off that proposal after getting advice from the city's attorney.

The council will approve a final budget in May. The layoffs would take effect on Saturday, June 12, with employees' last day of work on June 11.

King said this afternoon that that the LVCEA's latest concession offer "is worth basically 8.3 percent." The furloughs part of it amounts to 4.6 percent, he said.

He said the city initially asked its employees to take the 8 percent salary cut, plus forego cost-of-living increases and longevity step increases. However, he said the city's offer never guaranteed that even if those concessions were made, there would be no layoffs. Therefore, the LVCEA's offer includes language calling for no layoffs.

"The majority of the people who are losing their jobs are my members," King said. "My members have made it very clear if they are going to give up something, they want to save our members' jobs."

He estimated that about 120 of the 146 people who would be fired under the city's tentative budget are his members. His members have gone through four other layoffs during the last two years, including about 18 who were laid off in January, he said.

King said his members prefer furloughs to salary cuts, because "if you give up something, like 8 percent, it is very difficult to get it back."

Also, 96 hours of furlough will not affect an employees' benefits in the Public Employees Retirement System, but an 8 percent salary cut would mean lower retirement benefits, he said.

Although the concession offer was just posted on the LVCEA Web site today, King said that Fretwell, the mayor and city council members have had copies since last Friday.

"We are encouraging the mayor and council to look at it and give it some consideration," he said. "The city alwas has the right to come back with a final offer or a final position . . . I really don't know where they're going to go with it. My biggest issue is I would love to save every job I can."

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