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City workers want 10 percent back
Union rep wants city to dip into reserves
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Joshua Eli Lepper, a representative of the Miscellaneous Bargaining Unit of city workers joined those who were cut in wages four and a half years ago to ask the council for full restoration. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

A small army of city workers belonging to the Miscellaneous Bargaining Unit - represented by the Laborers International Union of America Local #1130 - issued a plea to the Ceres City Council on Monday to restore the 10 percent cut in wages they conceded four and a half years ago in the face of city budget shortfalls.

Two bargaining units have settled contracts with the city that restore three percent for one year and two percent the following year for a five percent restoration. A total of 73 workers with the Miscellaneous Bargaining Unit are at an impasse with the city as they press for a 10 percent restoration. The unit includes parks, streets, sewer, dispatch and some administration.

Joshua Eli Lepper, a union representative, suggested that the city needs to compromise on its hard line instance on a 20 percent reserve in order to fully restore the workers for what was supposed to be a temporary cut per the reversion contract of the contract. Lepper said the city workers agreed to the pay cuts to realize a targeted savings of $780,000 annually but that the city saved $1.6 million.

"We in turn question the hiring of executives, the hiring of additional employees, the use of temporary and contract labor for overtime - all without giving back to the group," said Lepper. "Not to mention the purchase of the $457,000 mansion."

The city has offered two percent back for the 2013-14 fiscal year and two percent back during the 2014-15 year. Lepper said that's unacceptable given that workers will still be behind six percent from what they were making five years ago.

During the City Council meeting on Monday, a number of city workers shared how the lost wages have impacted their lives, such as inability to buy Christmas gifts, medicines, or pay the mortgage.

Cara Butler, a recreation department employee, said she was unable to fulfill a promise to her child to totally cover her college costs.

"I'm just disappointed," said Butler.

Armando Hernandez, a 15-year water department employee asked "whatever happened to ‘Together We Achieve?'"
Dan Miranda, a 25-year city employee, said he won't be retiring because of the cuts.

"We're continually going backwards," said Miranda.
Rob Herrington added "We've been bleeding and as you can see morale is at an all-time low."

Rod Morris, a wastewater treatment plant employee of 27 years, said "I feel like I'm going backwards. Four and a half years ago I had some savings. Now it's depleted."

Mayor Chris Vierra pledged to do what the council can without jeopardizing the public's financial interest.

"We really appreciate all you do ... for the city," said Mayor Vierra. "But we have to be good stewards of the city's budget ... and it's been economically difficult for all of us, not only for city workers or publically. My own situation, I haven't had a raise for five years so I know what you're going through. I know it's difficult. That's why we've always said we'll do whatever we can for you but we also have to make sure the city stays solvent as well."