City Beat

City of Sacramento shorted employees on benefits, union says

Sacramento Bee

Nearly 100 city of Sacramento employees did not receive medical coverage or other benefits despite working enough hours to qualify for them, the city’s largest labor union charged in a grievance filed Monday.

The grievance, filed against the city by Stationary Engineers Local 39, covers some employees who have worked in the after-school programs run by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation going back to 2008. These programs are now targeted for cuts – in part because of the cost of providing health or retirement benefits to employees who did not previously receive them before the union complained.

The charges also include allegations that the city improperly replaced laid-off workers with former employees who had less seniority and violated the job specifications for some employees by forcing them to work too many hours.

Local 39’s complaint is linked to the discussion at City Hall of how to deal with impending budget shortfalls in after-school programs at some Sacramento City Unified School District campuses.

City officials reported this month that they are considering closing 4th “R” after-school programs at four schools and severing ties with the START after-school program at 18 campuses because those services are about to run a deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The deficit would largely occur because the city plans to begin paying expanded benefits to many workers in those programs for the first time in the coming fiscal year, officials said.

According to Local 39, 98 parks employees worked more than 1,040 hours in a year – or 20 hours a week – since 2008 without receiving benefits such as medical coverage and city contributions to their retirement funds, a violation of the union’s contract with the city. Of those employees, 49 were in the START after-school program and 21 worked in 4th “R.”

While many of the employees worked just a few hours above the 1,040-hour threshold, some worked as many as 1,500 hours in a year without receiving all of their benefits, according to Local 39.

Steve Crouch, director of public employees for Local 39, called the city’s practices “an atrocity.” He said the city did not acknowledge it needed to pay benefits to employees working more than 1,040 hours until the union brought the allegations to the attention of city labor officials.

“We’re very disappointed that Parks and Rec management felt the need to circumvent the contract (Local 39 has with the city) and civil service rules,” Crouch said. “We’re extremely upset about this. People need medical care for themselves and for their families. For managers to have full medical benefits, and then people under them don’t, that’s just an atrocity.”

Crouch said the grievance is seeking to force the city to pay retroactive benefits for the 98 employees who did not receive the coverage.

Linda Tucker, a city spokeswoman, said she could not comment specifically on the grievance because it is “pending litigation.”

“It’s a grievance, so it’s going to be investigated,” she said.

The city is negotiating with the Sacramento City Unified School District over whether the 4th “R” programs can be saved. At its meeting next week, the City Council is scheduled to debate closing the services at Golden Empire Elementary in Rosemont, Caroline Wenzel Elementary School in Greenhaven, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary in College/Glen and O.W. Erlewine Elementary in Larchmont Riviera.

The 4th “R” enrollment at those schools has steadily declined as more parents and guardians opt to enroll their children in free after-school programs on the same campuses, city officials said. A total of 187 students are enrolled in 4th “R” at those four campuses.

Roughly 90 percent of the 4th “R” budget comes from fees. As a result of the dwindling enrollment and the decision to begin paying benefits to dozens of workers, the city is projecting a $458,000 deficit for the upcoming fiscal year in 4th “R.”

START is facing its own budget shortfall of $1 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, according to a city staff report. That deficit is also the result of rising employee costs, city officials said this month.

The city has proposed cutting ties with START at 18 campuses. However, Sacramento City Unified leaders said they have the funding to continue free after-school programs at those schools and expect the service to continue.

START is available only at schools where 50 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments