News - June 15, 2011

Atherton employee layoffs delayed as talks continue

by Renee Batti

The town of Atherton agreed on June 9 to delay its planned layoff of 13 employees until July 15 while it negotiates with the union representing them, according to Teamsters union representative Peter Finn.

Mr. Finn told the Almanac that the two parties met in an afternoon session that day, during which they discussed the union's proposed 12 percent in employee concessions, offered earlier by the union in an attempt to save the employees' jobs. By the day's end, the union offered still more concessions, he said.

The town in late May announced its intent to outsource the building department and the public works department, which provides streets, parks and facilities services. The move would cost 13 employees, some of whom have worked for the town for decades, their jobs. Pink slips delivered May 31 were to be effective June 30.

Town negotiators estimated that outsourcing the services would save the town roughly $276,000, Mr. Finn said — an estimate that prompted a second proposal by the union: In addition to the earlier-proposed concessions, incentives would be provided for early retirements; employees would be furloughed 10 days; and employees would pay their entire contribution to the retirement system (PERS), plus a portion of the town's contribution. (The town now pays the employee contributions in addition to its own.)

Those concessions would increase the estimated $167,000 in savings to the town of the initial proposed concessions to more than $300,000, surpassing the town's estimated savings through outsourcing, Mr. Finn said.

Interim City Manager John Danielson could not be reached for comment.

The proposed employee contributions to PERS would amount to about 8 percent of their compensation, while the furlough days would amount to about a 4 percent reduction, Mr. Finn said.

Meanwhile, the town has issued requests for proposals (RFPs) to solicit bids from private firms interested in providing building and public works services. The bids are due in town hall by 4 p.m. June 24.


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