January 27, 2017
RE: City/SFMTA Contract Negotiations Update
We have received calls and emails from members who want a better understanding of why the Union chose to tentatively agree to a proposed extension of the current MOUs. While we believe that the reasoning will become clearer to the membership after discussing the extension at the meeting on February 7th, we will attempt to provide a few of our thoughts from where we sit today.
As we said in our update of January 19th, San Francisco is seriously concerned that some of the funding they receive from the Federal Government, either directly or as a pass through from the State of California, will soon be on the chopping block. As they prepare for the coming budget cycle, they need to have solid numbers to enable them to fight for their funding sources. We believe that there is some merit to their concerns. As of January 25th, that concern seems to be well founded.
If our members reject the extension proposal, IBEW Local 6 will likely be the only Union to be going in front of an Arbitrator. We have not heard of one Union that has voted to reject this proposal. Based upon our past history, and supported by discussions with our legal counsel, the Arbitrator will not award future increases that exceed those agreed to by other Unions. If the membership chooses to reject the proposed extension, the Union would advance the proposed contract changes and internal adjustments we have compiled. In the event that any were granted, they would in all likelihood be offset by contract changes and/or takeaways requested by the employer. In addition, any economic impacts from the changes or adjustments would most likely be discounted out of the overall increase to base wages, and could result in a net negative impact for some classifications.
The changes that would likely be sought after by the employer include some of the long standing work practices and premiums that our members enjoy and that other Unions do not. We have fixed work weeks and work days at the City, when other Unions do not. The employer has been trying to remove that language since at least 2003. We have a Division Transfer/Shift Sign Up process that the SFMTA has previously tried to eliminate. The employer has sought to change or remove many provisions contained in our contract, too many to list here, and we would expect that they will seek to change or remove those provisions again. The employer will look at it as their chance to get things out of our MOU, while having very little risk. The Arbitrator has broad latitude on what provisions to change or remove, and their decision is final.
The question for the bargaining unit is simple; is there more to lose than there is to gain? Given the current political climate, both locally and nationally, coupled with the real potential for funding cut-backs, is it worth the risk to go for internal adjustments and other things. People have asked that we try to secure more work boots, more work clothes, OT at double time after 12 hours, among other things. We can certainly put those items forward, but not without the risk that comes with doing so. In our opinion, though, now is not the time to be in front of an Arbitrator with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office focused solely on our agreements. We have provisions in our MOUs that many other Unions do not, and some that no other Union has. These provisions are ample cannon fodder for the City to go after.
The thoughts discussed above provided some of the basis for the Union’s tentatively agreeing to the proposed extension. We will have an opportunity for a more thorough discussion at the special called meeting. We can try to come to by a shop to explain, if that would be helpful, either way. After the proposed extension has been presented and discussed, we will vote on it, and then we will follow the path laid out as a result of that vote. Please be sure to attend this very important meeting.
John J. Doherty
Business Manager – Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 6