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Oxnard Still at Odds With Employee Unions Over Raises, Benefits

August 10, 1989|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

Negotiations with most of Oxnard's city employees who have been without a contract since July 9 remained deadlocked, negotiators said this week.

Only the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501, which represents the city's approximately 342 blue-collar workers, had not declared an impasse by Wednesday, said union spokesman Ron Coleman.

"Both sides are still negotiating in good faith," he said.

But relations were not as smooth with either the Public Employees Assn. of Ventura County, which represents the city's 305 clerical, professional and technical workers, and the International Assn. of Firefighters Local 1684, which represents 87 rank-and-file members of Oxnard's Fire Department.

The firefighters' union called in a state mediator to settle the dispute in the middle of July, and early last week the public employees' union followed suit. The mediator, Draza (Merv) Mrvichin, took the unusual step of meeting Tuesday with City Council members, but neither side would disclose what happened in the closed-door meeting.

Noisy Picketing

In a noisy display of dismay, public employees' union members picketed Oxnard City Hall for two hours on Tuesday, carrying signs that referred to pinched fiscal conditions at the city, which hopes to save 6% on salaries by filling vacancies more slowly than usual. "Don't balance the budget on my back," one sign read.

Oxnard firefighters have been less demonstrative. Union president Bill Gallaher declined to detail the union's demands but said that in addition to wage increases it is asking for improved working conditions in the department, where cutbacks have forced some firefighters to shoulder additional responsibilities. The budget cuts also have caused the sporadic closure of some fire stations.

"I'm not happy with the situation," he said, "but I'd prefer to give the city one more opportunity to come across."

Barry Hammitt, public employees' union executive director, was more open.

Management to Get Raise

The city, which last month agreed to give management a 3.9% increase, has offered the public employees a two-year contract that calls for a 3.3% salary increase this year, effective in November.

Next year, under the city's proposal, employees would be given either a 3.5% increase with added health benefits or a 4% increase with no new health benefits.

The union is asking for a raise of 4.2%--the consumer price index--and a salary increase next year of between 4% and 10%, depending on the consumer price index, with some health benefits, Hammitt said. This year's raise would be retroactive to July.

Under both scenarios, salaries that fall below those being offered for comparable jobs in comparable cities would be adjusted upward in April. But Dene Jones, Oxnard personnel and employee relations director, said there has been some disagreement over just which cities are comparable.

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