The San Diego City Council voted Monday to supplement the military pay of city employees who are also reservists and have been called to active duty because of the Persian Gulf War.
Bruce Herring, city labor relations manager, said 40 employees have been called to active duty so far, and about half of them are San Diego police officers. The total cost of the program, which will be in effect for six months, will be about $400,000 and will include benefits normally enjoyed by the employee's family, Herring said.
State law obligates the city to grant an employee full pay and benefits for the first 30 days after he or she is activated.
The proposal adopted by the city takes that several steps further and is retroactive to Aug. 2. City employees will have their military pay supplemented for five months and benefits extended for six months after their call to active duty.
Mayor Maureen O'Connor first proposed the program in her State of the City Address in January. The county Board of Supervisors recently adopted a similar proposal.
Under the plan adopted Monday, the city will make up the difference between what the reservist is earning while on active duty and what he or she was making as a city employee. Some workers took more than a 50% pay cut when they were called to active duty.
The wife of a San Diego police officer who was recently called to active duty pleaded with the council to approve the supplemental plan.
She said that her husband, who is a Marine reservist, lost about half of his police officer's pay when he was activated.
"The hardship is in the large cut in pay. . . . We don't have money to pay our mortgage or car payments," the woman said.
Some employees have already been on active duty for more than six months. Deputy City Atty. John Kaheny, for example, was activated in August.
Councilman Bruce Henderson pointed out that the policy poses a problem, since it only covers a maximum of six months and ends June 30.
Employees such as Kaheny will receive retroactive pay in a lump sum, said Herring. The problem of paying employees who serve longer than six months on active duty will be debated later, he said.
O'Connor also called on the private sector to initiate similar plans for its employees. Several companies have already announced that they will continue to pay their employees who have been called to active duty.
Henderson and O'Connor expressed hope Monday that the Kuwaitis and Saudis can be persuaded to reimburse the city for the expense of paying the employee-reservists. Henderson said the Kuwaiti government in exile has billions of dollars in assets and asked the council to work through the National League of Cities to see if the group can ask the Kuwaitis and oil-rich Saudis to help pay the bill.
O'Connor approved of the idea and said she will bring up the issue at the next meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.