By Eiji Yamashita, the Hanford Sentinel
Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011
Hanford city employees will see a 9 percent increase in their pay this fiscal year — just enough to offset the cost of a new agreement requiring them to pay their full pension contributions.
The workers, including public works crews, dispatchers and City Hall clerks, voted on Monday for a new two-year contract with the city.
The contract was approved on Tuesday night by the Hanford City Council. The city’s legal counsel joined Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents the workers, in describing the new contract as mutually beneficial and responsible for taxpayers.
The new contract calls for employees to begin paying the full 8 percent share of their contribution to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. The city had previously covered those expenses for years.
The 9 percent raise this year will offset the hit to their paychecks and result in a net 1 percent cost-of-living allowance raise for the employees. Another 1 percent raise will take effect next July, the union said.
Hanford’s general bargaining unit has not seen a pay increase in three years. Employees last received a 1 percent raise in 2008.
“This contract is a good step that protects workers and taxpayers alike,” said Manny Gallegos, a utilities maintenance worker and a member of the bargaining team.
“During these tough economic times, I am proud our union negotiated a contract that is fair both to the community and to the workers who serve it.”
Workers paying their full employees share of contribution to PERS means a significant cost savings for the city for years to come, said Mario Zamora, an attorney with Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin, LLP, which serves as the city’s legal counsel.
“One of the big benefits is going to be the employees of the general unit starting to pay their share of retirement contributions,” Zamora said.
“That’s a tremendous benefit to the city in the long run.”