San Jose's police and fire unions reached a tentative agreement with city officials Wednesday night on longstanding Measure B litigation over pension, retiree healthcare and disability benefits.
Mayor Sam Liccardo expressed his relief at a press release, noting: “This is a moment for all of us to exhale.”
He continued: “It’s also a moment to celebrate our collective commitment to move beyond the contentiousness of the past, and forge a new path for San Jose’s rebirth.”
Liccardo also deemed the agreement a “catalyst” for the “rebuilding of [the city’s] public safety services.”
Meanwhile, Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the unions, said: “We are appreciative of Mayor Liccardo's leadership to move our city forward and we are appreciative of the collaborative approach City Manager Norberto Dueñas and his entire negotiation team exhibited to reach this historic agreement."
Measure B was passed by 69 percent of voters in 2012 and included multiple changes to city pension plans, including having new city employees pay 50 percent of pension costs and current employees to either choose a lower-cost plan or contribute more to their current plan.
Soon after the measure was passed, a lawsuit was filed by attorneys for the city's unions, including the San Jose Police Officers' Association and San Jose International Association of Fire Fighters Local 230, claiming the measure allowed the city to take actions that were not agreed upon in their labor contracts.
In December 2013, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas struck down a portion of the measure that would have allowed the city to increase employee pension contributions and cut contracted cost-of-living increases.
The judge did uphold a bulk of the measure, including lowering employee pay for their retirement plans.
Saggau said more than 400 police officers have left the city since Measure B passed and 80 of those officers have left since Jan. 1.
The city and unions have spent numerous hours and dollars working to settle the case, Saggau added.
Negotiations continued for most of Tuesday and ended just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, he said. Both sides were back at City Hall around 10 a.m. Wednesday and settlement talks lasted well into the evening.
Liccardo, who declined to discuss the details of the agreement until it had been ratified by union members, also thanked 1,600-plus “hard-working police officers and firefighters who continue to serve our residents, day in and day out, with honor and courage.”
“They have ignored the buzz of the naysayers who tell them they should chase dollars to work in some other city,” he said. “Years from now, they will be remembered for their selfless role in the pioneering the rebuilding our police and fire departments to national prominence.”
According to San Jose spokesman David Vossbrink, the tentative agreement still needs final approval from the City Council and unions.