City Workers Vote for 13.5 Percent Raises and Bonuses for Longevity

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday August 05, 2008 - 05:15:00 PM

City Manager Phil Kamlarz talks about belt-tightening and eliminating vacant positions in these hard budget times. Still, city workers-many of them, at least-won't be dining on bread and water, according to reports received by the Daily Planet. 

The Planet has been informed by several people, who won't permit their names to be revealed since the contract is not yet public, that the contract ratified by the Service Employees International Union gives the 950 workers a 5 percent salary hike the first year of a four-year contract, a 2 percent increase the second year, a 2.5 percent increase the third year, and two different 2 percent increases the fourth year. Moreover, there's a bonus 3 percent the second year for employees who have worked for the city for 25 years or more.  

Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel refused to comment on the SEIU contract, other than to say that the city has the revenue to pay for the raises. 

The contract won't go into effect until it's approved by the City Council when councilmembers come back from their two-month summer break in September.  

While managers are not part of SEIU and are still at the bargaining table, they typically get the same raises as SEIU workers. Under these terms, City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who now earns $207,564 per year, would end up in four years with a salary of almost $250,000.) 

Barbara Gilbert, a resident who scrutinizes the budget and is often critical of expenditures, told the Planet she was surprised at the 14 percent police and fire raises approved earlier in the year and now was surprised to hear about similar pay hikes for other staff.  

“In general, I'm kind of stunned at the fire and police contracts,” Gilbert said, underscoring the decline of city sales tax and transfer tax. 

“There's nothing left for the infrastructure,” she said, accusing Berkeley of being a “two-bit” city trying to act like San Francisco. 

Several of those who spoke anonymously to the Planet criticized the way pay raises are made.  

Needed employees are being cut back, said one critic, pointing in particular to a fee-generating housing inspector slot which is one of about eight vacant positions which would be eliminated.  

Another believes that it is unfair to give the same rate of salary increase to people earning vastly different salaries. A health analyst earning more than $80,000 annually would get 5 percent more in September, as would a library aide earning $33,000, if the council approves the contract. 

One commentator suggested giving increases of the same dollar amount to all employees, eliminating the large differential between well paid and more poorly paid workers. 

“It's really disgusting that the people at the top are getting so much more,” said another.