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Santa Rosa city workers' group to vote on furloughs

The City of Santa Rosa and the leaders of its largest union have struck a tentative deal calling for workers to take one unpaid furlough day per month, a concession long-sought by city officials struggling to close a $3.8 million deficit.

If approved, the agreement would reduce the general fund shortage by about $700,000 this year — 28 percent of the $2.5 million the city hopes to save through employee concessions.

After months at the bargaining table, city negotiators last week came to terms with representatives of the 450-member Santa Rosa City Employees Association, whose members include the core of the city's administrative staff, such as planners, secretaries, financial analysts and engineers.

The agreement amounts to a 4.6 percent salary decrease for workers. The deal is important because it involves the city's largest union and could jump-start ongoing negotiations with other unions, said Fran Elm, director of human resources.

“We think this is really giving us a little momentum that we can get more people on board with more concessions,” Elm said. “We're hoping others will follow.”

The union is holding an informational meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Steele Lane Community Center to discuss the issue with its members. Voting takes place all day Thursday.

If employees approve the one-year contract, the City Council will be asked to accept it on Tuesday. The last contract with the group was for three years and ended June 30.

City Planner Noah Housh, who represents about 93 professional workers in the union, said it is the first time he's ever heard of the membership being asked to consider salary reductions.

“I feel like someone would feel to have their salary cut at the same time their duties are increased because we have fewer staff,” Housh said.

Mayor Susan Gorin said the council was informed of the agreement in closed session last week, but she declined to discuss it Tuesday.

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