The City of Santa Barbara is at a standstill over contract negotiations with its 120 employees in the treatment and patrol unit.
The city and the employees hit an impasse in May and met unsuccessfully with a state-appointed mediator in July. The previous contract expired Dec. 31, 2013.
“We would like to keep talking,” said Kristy Schmidt, administrative services director. “At this point we are not looking to impose a labor agreement on anyone. We are hoping the dialogue will continue and we will able to make progress.”
The treatment and patrol unit consists of 10 armed peace officers who patrol the city’s harbor and waterfront department, 89 employees in the city’s water and wastewater departments, and 21 other types of patrol officers who work at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport and city parks.
Although neither side can discuss the specifics of the contract negotiations, the dispute centers on salary increases, greater employee contribution to pensions and health care, and holidays. Schmidt said the city ultimately would like the employees to pay 9 percent into their retirement; right now they pay 3 percent.
“It is unusual to go so long without an agreement,” Schmidt said.
Members of the TAP unit spoke out during the public comment portion of last week’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting.
Mike Woods, a field representative for Service Employees International Union Local 620, and the chief spokesman for the TAP employees, made a public plea at the meeting.
“We met with the city twice and were not able to come to a compromise even though the TAP unit was willing to make considerable movement to get an agreement,” Woods said. “We do not believe that we are asking for anything unreasonable considering that the employees of the treatment and patrol unit have suffered right along with other units within the city.”
Jason Guy, a control systems operator specialist at the water treatment plan, said employees’ workload has doubled, paychecks are getting smaller and health-care costs are rising out of control.
“It saddens me to know that some of you elected officials and leaders don’t really care about us,” he said. “This is it. It’s the fourth quarter, two minutes to go and if we don’t have the leadership or support of our elected officials then we will see a very special team of trained and certified officers fail. If you don’t care about us then why should we care about you?”