According to informed sources outside town government, Mammoth Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht sent a letter to the Town Employees group that some call a thinly veiled threat to outsource Town jobs unless workers give up a lot more money. The point of threat is a paragraph that says basically that if employees agree on “sustainable savings”, contracting out their jobs may not be necessary.
Wilbrecht’s letter invites employees to meet with him as soon as possible to identify additional cost savings – reduction of salaries, benefits and greater contributions to pensions by employees.
The Town Employees Group, which is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has a signed contract with the Town of Mammoth through 2016. In the last four or five years, workers have made several amendments to their contract to reduce salaries and make their own payments into pensions resulting in cuts of more than 20%.
Town Administrative Services Director Marianna Marysheva-Martinez had mentioned the potential for outsourcing jobs in her repeated discussions over the past few months on restructuring Town government to balance the budget and make $2 million annual payments to MLLA.
But the concept of outsourcing government jobs has come under serious scrutiny by the courts. In late November, the California Supreme Court ruled against the City of Costa Mesa’s attempt to lay off more than 100 city employees and outsource their jobs to the private sector. According to reports, the Costa Mesa City Council majority sent out more than 200 pink slips as part of a plan to privatize city services. From Superior Court to Appellate Court and finally the California Supreme Court, judges rejected the City’s request to overturn an injunction blocking their outsourcing efforts.
Asked to comment on reports that some see Wilbrecht’s letter as a threat to outsource town jobs, Administrative Services Director Martinez said, “I can see why they might see it that way. We want to be as open as possible within contract negotiations.” Martinez said that outsourcing is a matter of legality and common sense and that the Town has to work closely with the employees association.
She said the Town ultimately has two goals – to achieve the lowest per employee cost and the most efficient services. Martinez said, “If we can achieve this by working with the association and not outsourcing, I don’t see why we would outsource.” She said the employees have already proved to be creative and willing to work with management.
When asked how the Town can even discuss outsourcing when employees have a signed contract to 2016, Martinez said discussions need to take place. She said, “We need to look at expenses. We are aware of the legal boundaries.” Martinez said management would meet with workers later this week. She said there would be a “roundtable discussion with workers and local partners regarding volunteer programs and outsourcing – ways to reduce costs.”
Martinez said the Town needs to discuss with employees and the public what services should be candidates for outsourcing and then do further research. She repeated, “I understand the employees’ fear. We’re trying to develop a process for all to participate in to re-shape the community.”
Behind the scenes, some workers and members of the public point to Martinez’s new contract which officials have now confirmed costs roughly $245,000 per year while at the same time workers are asked to give up more.
The Town Council plans to vote on the re-structuring plan that includes the cuts of employee positions and other items when they meet Wednesday night. Martinez said in later phases of the re-structuring, officials will look at “alternate service delivery models.” She said this assumes the number of workers at that point would remain the same. Said Martinez, “The only way out is to reduce costs.”