Most Santa Rosa government employees have been working without a contract since July 1 as negotiations drag on over whether they should get raises for the first time in years.
"It's moving slowly," acknowledged Human Resources Director Fran Elm.
In previous years, union groups have been more motivated to accept concessions to prevent layoffs of colleagues and help the city through challenging budget times.
But this year, with the budget bouncing back somewhat and city hiring again, bargaining units are done giving concessions and are holding out hope for a restoration of raises that many employees have forgone for three years, Elm said.
Most employees have gone without cost-of-living increases for three years and gave up unpaid furloughs of between 3 and 5 percent of salary to help ease the budget crunch.
The city is no longer asking for furloughs but doesn't feel the time is right for a restoration of raises, Elm said.
"We're not out of the woods yet," she said.
Police and police management unions aren't currently in negotiations. But all other 10 groups are, and so far only one has struck a deal with the city.
The 55 civilian police employees — including dispatchers and evidence technicians — represented by SEIU have agreed to another year without raises.
But their furloughs are also going away, meaning they'll see a 3 percent increase in take-home pay this year.
The City Council approved the one-year contract 6-0 Tuesday.
Other city employees have enjoyed the same 3 percent increase in take-home pay since July 1, when their previously agreed furloughs expired with their most recent contract.
Mike Reynolds, president of the city's largest union, the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, said the non-public safety employees he represents believe the economy and the budget have improved to the point that concessions are no longer needed.
In the past three years, SRCEA employees have given up raises and accepted furloughs valued at a total of $8.3 million, Reynolds said. So from his perspective Reynolds thinks the time has come for raises to return.
"We would like it to be back on the table," Reynolds said.
That may all hinge on the health of the city's pension plans. A change in the assumptions of the state Public Employee Retirement System is currently being analyzed by the city's actuary, who plans to outline the impacts for the council in early August.
City finance staff has said the hit to the city could be substantial. Some employee groups appear to be waiting to see what the actuarial report says before striking an agreement, Elm said.
Reynolds said he believes the city's pension funds are far healthier than have been portrayed.
"The city is is good shape," Reynolds said. "We are not Stockton. We are not Vallejo. The city has been very well run for years."
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.