Talks could result in reforms 

Recent union labor negotiations could bring The City closer to reshaping a civil service system often criticized for being inefficient and outdated.

The five months of City negotiations with about 40 labor unions will likely result in at least five changes to the civil service system, according to Philip Ginsburg, director of The City’s Department of Human Resources.

Of The City’s 27,000 employees, who fill such positions as lifeguards, custodians, engineers and clerks, only 150 are nonunionized. About 10,500 are represented by the Service Employees International, Local 790 union and the remainder by a number of different unions. SEIU members will vote Friday on the proposed three-year labor contract, which would begin July 1.

Last year, a report authored by Ginsburg said The City’s civil service system was plagued with problems when it came to hiring, evaluating, training and firing employees.

Ginsburg said this year’s negotiations will likely result in the implementation of the report’s "significant" recommendations.

Currently, city employees are given "automatic 20 percent increases in their first three and a half years of employment," according to the report.

But if the proposed contract goes through, employee raises would be conditional upon a "satisfactory performance" review by the job supervisor, Ginsburg said.

"It’s a big change in culture for us," Ginsburg said.

About half of The City’s $5 billion operating budget covers personnel and salaries.

In general, The City is looking at a total of 8 percent increases over the next three years for employee salaries, according to Ginsburg. He said the average city salary is $75,000.

The City is also hoping to revamp retiree health benefits, according to Ginsberg.

In 2000, The City was paying out about $30 million in retiree health benefits, but now, with rising health costs, The City is paying out $100 million. This cost is increasing between 15 percent and 20 percent annually, Ginsberg said.

Currently, it takes five years of city service to obtain retiree health benefits, and The City may opt to extend how long it takes for an employee to qualify for the benefits, Ginsburg said.

Other likely changes to the civil service system include a 12-month probation period for city employees. SEIU-represented workers, however, would continue to have a six-month probation period.

The union declined to comment on the budget until Friday’s vote.

Ginsburg will introduce the three-year contracts to the Board of Supervisors next week as it begins review of Newsom’s submitted budget.

Health care for temp workers expected in three-year contract

Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce next week that a new three-year labor contract with Service Employees International, Local 790, includes health care for temporary workers.

This may be the first time that a city will offer health care to temporary workers on the first day of their job, union spokesman Thomas Dewar said.

Dewar said the 10,500 City employees represented by SEIU will vote Friday on the proposed contract.

The health care program, scheduled to begin April 2007, would benefit more than 1,000 employees, Dewar said. He estimated that The City would set aside $500,000 next year for the program and then $2 million annually.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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