Future hires for public-sector jobs in The City traditionally held by women and minorities could receive lower pay under a proposal union brass says would erase decades of progress in wage equality.
Personnel and payroll clerks, legal secretaries, security guards, pharmacists, health workers, custodians and social workers in San Francisco all earn between 15 and 25 percent more than workers with similar duties in other Bay Area cities, according to a letter sent last month to union officials by the Department of Human Resources.
Such a wage disparity allows The City to consider pay cuts. The letter is the first move in negotiations to cut wages for new hires in those jobs, said Susan Gard, the department’s chief of policy.
Workers in the positions received significant pay raises in the 1980s and 1990s — a hard-won concession called “comparable worth” — in order to pay the women and minorities equitable salaries, said Service Employees International Union Local 1021 political director Chris Daly, a former city supervisor.
“The City has fallen into the trap of seeking out salary savings from its lowest-paid workers regardless of any other ramifications,” Daly said.
Any wage cut would be negotiated into the union’s next contract, which begins in 2014. It would only apply to new hires, Gard said.
City and union officials will be in negotiations until March. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, wage cuts for future hires would be decided by an arbitrator.
Compensation for public employees is a hot-button issue in San Francisco and across the country, as spending by the federal government on down is scrutinized for possible savings.
There is a fear that current workers will eventually be targeted for the same pay cuts as future employees, said Anna Bakalis, a spokeswoman for Local 1021.
Also at issue are the wages used for comparison. The City is comparing its workers to counterparts in Bay Area cities such as Oakland and San Jose, while the union wants to use wage figures in expensive cities such as New York and Chicago, Bakalis said.
“We think it’s only fair to compare to cities with a high cost of living,” she said. “We don’t think Stockton and Concord fit the bill.”