South Pasadena Unions | Negotiations Continue for Cost of Living Adjustments

The City had been hoping to get a $400,000 concession on the COLA

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Mayor Robert Joe and Councilmember Michael Cacciotti

The City of South Pasadena on July 1 went forward with a two percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for members of four employee unions, the city confirmed this week. Checks under the first payroll period since the change took effect were issued July 10. 

The City had been hoping to get a $400,000 concession on the COLA as part of its plan to shave $3.5 million in spending from its 2020-21 budget in response to lower revenue projections due to the coronavirus pandemic. But pressure from citizens concerned about the city’s fiscal practices forced the Council to delay adoption of the budget and extend fiscal 2019-20 spending levels for at least two months.

“At this time the employee bargaining units were not agreeable to reductions in compensation, including the elimination of the scheduled cost-of-living increase until the Council certified there was a significant reduction in budgeted revenues,” the City said in a statement to the South Pasadenan News. Without the proposed 2020 budget in place, the City couldn’t offer that certification.

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Negotiations with the unions continue, the statement said.

Dan Dunn, acting president of the South Pasadena Firefighters Association, confirmed the COLA was added on the vast majority of employee paychecks as of July 1 though he was aware of a few which had not gotten it.

“We understand (the Finance Department) is overworked,” right now he said, being a small group working on a second draft of the budget, buybacks and a pay raise coming in the middle of the pay period, all at the same time. He said fire association reps weren’t available to negotiate for a period and time ran out before a deal could be reached ahead of the July 1 deadline.

“We are working with the City to finalize it at this point and trying to come to an agreement,” Dunn said. “We’ll be meeting at a later date to discuss the COLAs and possible reductions. We know we have to renegotiate everything.” He said the union did ask for “hard numbers” about city spending, because terms of the police, firefighter and full and part-time employee labor agreements can only be reopened if projected general fund spending is at least 5 percent below the previous fiscal year.

While close, Dann said, the city has not been able to provide “concrete numbers” showing its projections can meet that figure.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.