Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz: grateful to city employees for making cuts. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The city could achieve annual savings in excess of $4 million, if an agreement reached this week with more than 500 city employees on salary cuts and pensions is also adopted by other union members, according to City Manager Phil Kamlarz.

The agreement, announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, was made with members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, the city’s maintenance and clerical workers, and it will go some way to alleviate Berkeley’s $12.2 million budget deficit.

In agreeing to cuts in salary increases that had already been agreed upon, and to a two-tier pension system, SEIU members also prevented layoffs among its members. The city has said it would have to make about 79 job cuts in order to reduce costs. The new agreement, which has also been signed by a number of non-represented workers, includes provisions for early retirement, said Kamlarz.

Kamlarz said he wanted to express his gratitude to the signatories, who represent 50% of the city’s non-uniformed staff, for stepping up to the plate. “We want to thank some of the lowest paid people in the organization for offering to help find solutions. We thank them for volunteering to re-open their contracts and for looking after the long-term benefit for the city,” he told Berkeleyside.

Speaking at the City Council meeting, Gladys Gray, President of SEIU 1021’s Executive Committee said she was hopeful that the agreement would diminish rumors about public sector workers. “A lot of the media represent us as being greedy.  We see what’s going on in the economy… we are willing to give back to the city and help balance this budget.”

Sandra Lewis, also on the SEIU Committee, said she believed the agreement demonstrated what could be done when unions and cities collaborate. “We’re hoping we can lead the way for other cities and show what can be done if you really establish a partnership.”

The city is currently in discussions with other employees, including the police department whose contract is under negotiation. “We hope the SEIU agreement will be a model for others to follow,” said Kamlarz.

The details of the agreement and an outline of next steps will be published today on the city’s website.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...