San Jose police and fire unions to appeal judge’s decision on 2012 pension reform measure

SAN JOSE (BCN) — Lawyers representing San Jose’s police and fire unions plan to appeal a judge’s decision on a 2012 pension reform measure if they do not reach an agreement with city officials on settling the case, a spokesman for the unions said.

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.

Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the unions, said the city and unions have spent numerous hours and dollars working to settle the case.

Negotiations continued for most of Tuesday and ended just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, Saggau said.

Both sides are back at City Hall continuing settlement talks, which are expected to last until the end of Wednesday, he said.

“If we don’t get a deal, the implications for San Jose residents are dire,” 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, according to Saggau.

City spokesman David Vossbrink said Wednesday’s deadline set by the unions is “somewhat arbitrary.”

“From a city perspective we can continue to make progress by sticking to the table,” he said.

Since April, there has been progress in settlement talks that have been steady and effective, Vossbrink said.

If a settlement agreement was reached, it would still need final approval from the City Council and unions, according to Vossbrink.

“We hope to reach an agreement without a deadline sooner rather than later,” Vossbrink said.

The San Jose City Council, which is currently in recess, is scheduled to meet in a closed session at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday with labor negotiators, whom they have already met with twice this month.

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