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November 26, 2014

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Mayor: City employees ‘glum’ after 200 job cuts

Goodman says city council still open to unions making concessions

Following the cuts of about 200 city jobs made by the Las Vegas City Council on Tuesday, the mood isn't good among city employees, Mayor Oscar Goodman said today.

"It's glum, as well it should be," Goodman said at his weekly press conference.

Goodman told unions months ago that the job cuts wouldn't be made for the next fiscal year if the unions would agree to going "flat" - forgoing their automatic cost-of-living, step pay increases and longevity increases - plus take an 8 percent reduction in salaries and benefits.

"Since that time, it's changed. But I'll stay by my prior commitment if folks are ready to cut their flat, plus 8 percent," he said. "It's more like flat, plus 10, now."

The city must present its budget to the state on June 1. The first round of layoffs takes place on June 12 when 145 employees lose their jobs. Another round of layoffs takes place July 16 and a third, affecting about a dozen city marshals, takes effect in January.

The unions have floated some offers to the city, but the offers have not met the city's criteria, which was designed to deal with a deficit of about $80 million.

Goodman was asked if there was a specific trigger, such as the current budget deficit, that would automatically force the city's four unions to renegotiate their contracts. Goodman said there is some language to that effect in the contract with firefighters, but not with the other three unions.

"What has happened with two of our unions, they voluntarily opened up their contracts last year and came with a certain percentage reduction and then had their contracts extended in return for that," Goodman said.

The only union currently in negotiations is the firefighters' union, which is still at the table with the city, he said. The next meeting will be Tuesday.

Although a tentative pact was reached recently by negotiators for the city and the firefighters, the council informally rejected it and sent its negotiators back to the table to get more concessions from the firefighters.

The firefighters' last offer included concessions amounting to about $4.7 million, but the city is seeking closer to $8 million in concessions.

If both sides don't agree, an arbitrator would be brought in to conduct fact-finding, then binding arbitration would take place.

"Historically, the city has lost its arbitration," Goodman said. "In this particular time and place, if there are ever going to be changes, based on arbitration, this economy is the economy in which it's going to take place."

He said another question is whether an arbitrator would ever direct "a rollback" of salaries.

"In the past, that has not been the case. But, as I say, this present economy is such that I think it's ripe for change," he said.

Should negotiations be public?

Gov. Jim Gibbons is making a push to change state law to open such negotiations to the public.

Goodman isn't ready yet to open them.

"We're about as close to that as possible because we have public reports as to how we're standing with the negotiations," Goodman said. "There are pros and cons. I believe in transparency. But at the same time, one of the things that government loses in the real world when we are as transparent as transparency would permit, we lose our edge."

For example, in a property transaction, once a government body starts talking about proposals, then it puts itself at a competitive disadvantage with other sectors, he said.

"The pros are I think everybody would feel much more comfortable," Goodman said. "The cons are there may be an awful lot of grandstanding. And, I don't know, unless you're in the process, I don't know if people are going to be able to discern the wheat from the chaff as far as what the grandstanding is and what the real discussions are."

But doesn't grandstanding take place in a lot of city council meetings already?

"The difference is, if you're in a room the negotiations go on for hours," he said. "They sit down, they go in, they try to pound out an agreement."

If they were open, would it favor the city?

"I don't think the public clamor, at least I haven't seen it so far, is going to make one side or the other, management or labor, enter into an agreement," he said.

Goodman said the people who speak to him tell him "the line we're taking is the appropriate line."

LVCEA might present city another concession offer

Before Goodman's press conference, Don King, president of the city employees' largest union, the 1,400-member Las Vegas City Employees Association, said the union's board would meet today to discuss whether to present another concession offer to the city.

King said the LVCEA negotiators had "a marathon" session with the city's staff on Monday, prior to Tuesday's budget hearing. King said the city staff rejected that offer, which he wouldn't disclose.

He said if they do come up with another offer, they hope to present it to the city on Monday.

Meanwhile, he said 96 of his union members will lose their jobs on June 12 and about 40 more will have their jobs cut July 16. The union represents a mix of both blue and white collar jobs, including custodial workers, surveyors, clerical workers and building inspectors — just about everyone who isn't an administrative or appointive employee, a firefighter, a police officer or corrections employee, he said.

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