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January 9, 2007 > Tie vote equals no contract

Tie vote equals no contract

By Steve Warga

It's been a long time coming for union employees in Milpitas; and it'll be at least awhile longer before the city council renders a decision on a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). At council's first meeting of the New Year, January 2, Human Resources Director Carmen Valdez presented a new MOU with Mid-Management and Confidential Unit employees that included pay increases, among other things. The proposed MOU is intended to replace one that expired over a year ago.

Union employees had agreed to forego salary negotiations through the end of Fiscal Year 2006 (June 30) in order to help the city overcome a projected budget deficit. It was only after union members criticized city leaders at an October 3 council meeting that serious negotiations ensued. The new agreement proposes modest raises amounting to little more than cost of living increases.

With Vice-Mayor Bob Livengood absent due to illness, council failed to either approve or deny the MOU as Mayor Jose Estevez and Councilmember Althea Polanski voted "no" and Councilmembers Debbie Giordano and Armando Gomez voted "aye." Estevez restated his opposition to any raises, a position he's maintained even during his re-election campaign. "Some cities have already called my attention to [Milpitas salaries], saying we are skewing the salaries of [city] employees. For me, it is an embarrassment when we pay more than what we can really afford."

The tie vote effectively killed the resolution, and Estevez clearly wanted to leave things at that. However, City Attorney Steve Mattas suggested the item be considered again at the January 16 meeting, with all five councilmembers present. As Mattas pointed out, the city had negotiated in good faith, so council could not simply say "tie vote" then walk away. Part of good faith negotiating includes reaching a final agreement. Until council either approves or denies the MOU, employees are left in limbo.

Tuesday's meeting was adjourned in memory of Art Swanson, a long-time Milpitas resident and city booster who passed away recently after an extended illness.

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