About 50 Thousand Oaks employees staged a two-hour demonstration around City Hall on Tuesday night to protest stalled labor negotiations.
Members of the Thousand Oaks City Employees Assn. accused the city of refusing to go back to the bargaining table after talks broke down earlier this month. However, city Human Services Director Greg Eckman said he has repeatedly contacted the union in an attempt to get members back to the bargaining table.
"We're willing and able to meet anytime," he said. "Nothing's going to be resolved by them grandstanding. We need to get back to the table."
The city has reached a tentative agreement with the union that includes a 4% salary increase. It has also agreed to pay for increased medical benefits for workers. However, two non-monetary issues have brought negotiations to a halt. The union is demanding binding arbitration, a process that would allow workers to appeal to a third party on issues in dispute. Among those issues are performance evaluations and other grievances.
The union has also demanded that the city let employees vote on a proposal that would require city workers to join the association.
The last bargaining session Sept. 3 failed to bring agreement on the new two-year contract, association president Doris Lucas said as she passed out leaflets and carried a sign that said, "We'll Walk Until You Talk."
It is the first time that city employees felt strongly enough about a contract issue to picket City Hall, she said.
Some of the workers, such as 35-year-old Albert Nunez, a street maintenance worker for 10 years, brought their children to carry picket signs.
Nunez said evaluations he calls unfair have prevented him from getting three raises and a promotion to a higher-paying job. In each case, he was unable to appeal the reviews. "In 10 years, that's money in my pocket," Nunez said.
Other workers said they will continue to picket until the city reconsiders its position.