AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “We went to the City Council meeting to say this is unfair to working families and we want to talk,’ said Jim Washington, field representative for the SEIU local. “Other than that, we will be looking at other possible options or other job action.’ He did not specify what job actions might be taken. Councilman Ron Beilke said officials are still hopeful the two sides can agree. But if talks don’t resume, the two sides could call an impasse, clearing the way for a state mediator to be brought in, he said. The next step would be arbitration, he said. Contract talks between city employees and management have broken off after employees rejected what officials say is the city’s best and final offer, possibly leading to future job actions, a union representative said Wednesday. The city’s offer includes a 1.7- percent pay increase and no changes to employees health benefits through the first half of 2006. But the 82 city employees, who are represented by Service Employees International Union Local 347, had sought a 5-percent pay hike as their starting point in negotiations. And, union officials said, workers fear the city could ask them to pay for health benefits if costs rise. About 50 employees, some carrying placards that read, “No 1.7,’ took their grievances to the City Council meeting Tuesday night. They have been working without a contract since June. A strike would be possible if arbitration fails, but Beilke added that, “We really don’t think it will get to a strike.’ The city employees include maintenance workers, clerks who tend counters at City Hall, housing inspectors and other workers. Richard Kreisler of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, a Los Angeles law firm, is handling the negotiations for the city. “The city is already paying above the average for city employees in this area, with such salaries as $6,406 a month going to an associate engineer and $3,394 a month for an account clerk,’ he said. But Washington said a 1.7-percent raise is unfair, considering recent hefty raises given to administrative staff and $50,000 being paid to a consultant. “When you are giving an $11,000 raise to an administrative secretary and $50,000 to a management consultant, that seems like unfair treatment when it comes to salary increases,’ he said. The union also believes the city is in better financial condition than it admits, after receiving millions from the state and through development deals this year, Washington said. It also started the year with $2.7 million in unencumbered surplus, he added. “With that kind of money, they should be able to give at least a 3 1/2-percent raise,’ he said. “The current proposal doesn’t even meet the cost of living.’ Beilke denied the city has money to spend. “Our financial situation is not strong,’ he said. “As for the state funding, we do not feel it should be used for any other purpose other than for our roads.’ Washington said the city has traditionally paid the full cost of employee medical benefits, but now employees fear they could be asked to pay a portion of those benefits when costs increase in 2006. “Employees have always prided themselves on the fact that the city has traditionally paid the full cost of benefits. It has been one of the main reasons for working for the city of Pico Rivera,’ Washington said. “There are now fears they will have to pay something additional on the medical, and this may be the beginning of further reductions in coverage,’ he added. But Kreisler said medical benefits costs are going up everywhere. The city has offered to continue paying full benefits, with no employee contributions, but only through the first half of next year, when it would have to review insurance costs. If premiums exceed what the city has paid in the past, officials would need to reopen negotiations with the union, he said. “The overall feeling of the council is this is economically responsible,’ said Kreisler. — Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028, or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!