San Diego firefighters have agreed to a new labor contract, but they're not happy campers.
The firefighters say they feel betrayed by a ballot initiative that would give new department hires 401(k) retirement plans instead of traditional pensions.
For the sixth time in seven fiscal-year bargaining cycles, Firefighters Local 145 has accepted a salary freeze and made pension concessions that reduce take-home pay by six percent.
This latest annual cost-avoidance factor adds up to $5 million.
"It seems that every time we come to the table and agree on a solution, the problem changes within a few months, a few days, or in this case, in a few hours. And there's a new solution to a new problem," said SD City Firefighters Local 145 Secretary-Treasurer Alan Arrollado.
The new solution that sticks in firefighters' craw is the 2012 pension reform initiative endorsed by Mayor Sanders and three council members that includes Local 145 in the 401(k) shift targeting all new employees -- but not new police hires.
Union leaders have compiled a list of all the salary and pension concessions they've made to city cost cutting since 2005 and say they were led to believe their new hires would keep getting traditional city retirement plans along with their police counterparts.
But a key backer of the initiative argues, that's not financially sustainable.
"The yardstick I've always applied to labor contracts and pensions is that city employees -- all city employees -- should receive no better and no worse salary and benefit packages as the average San Diego taxpayer who's footing the bill," said Councilmember Carl DeMaio.
DeMaio was one of the two dissenters in a 6-2 vote approving the Local 145 contract.
DeMaio said it's still too generous and emphasizes that while the pension reform initiative itself doesn't put new police hires into 401(k) retirements, a new mayor and Council could make that happen later.