Ignoring the recommendation of its own appointed commission, the Redding City Council voted 3-2 on Dec. 7 to request proposals from private contractors to do gardening work currently performed by IBEW Local 1245 employees.
The council will seek price quotes from private firms for grass moving, leaf blowing, shrub pruning, trash collection and other basic parks maintenance tasks in three or four neighborhood parks.
“We were disappointed that the council ignored the recommendation of its own commission,” said Local 1245 Senior Business Representative Ray Thomas. But the threat to the union’s current members is very slim, Thomas said, because there are two vacant Gardener positions, and plenty of work.
“The contractors on the other hand have a dilemma,” Thomas said. “Their current hourly rates charged to the City for park maintenance range from $43 per hour to over $50. Our in-house total compensation hourly rate is $37 for a Public Works Maintenance worker.”
Thomas cited records showing that the contractors pay their employees between $12 and $14 per-hour with little to no benefits.
Opposing the contracting proposal were Vice Mayor Dick Dickerson and council member Francie Sullivan. Sullivan was elected to the Council last month with strong support from Local 1245 and other city unions.
Kim Niemer, community services director, had urged the council to keep basic parks maintenance in house, according to the Redding Record Searchlight. Full-time city crews working with temporary part-time employees can perform those tasks better and at less expense than private contractors, she said.
Full-time city crews working with part-time temporary employees perform basic parks maintenance at 30 percent less expense than a private contractor, which would have to pay prevailing wage and cover its own administrative costs and profit, according to parks planners.
City workers are less expensive even when the unfunded liability from their retirement benefits is factored in, planners said.
If the city did take steps to contract out work currently performed by members of the IBEW bargaining unit, it would have to meet and confer over the impact on employees.