In the latest battle with its employee unions, the city of San Jose has won a long struggle with its firefighters over reducing pension benefits for new hires — several years after voters approved the changes, reports the San Jose Mercury.
The final arbitration decision, announced this week, will save taxpayers millions of dollars compared to more generous retirement plans previously given to firefighters. It’s a victory for Mayor Chuck Reed, the city’s chief pension reformer, and his fiscal conservative allies that make up a majority of the City Council, who have seen the public costs for employee retirement skyrocket in the last decade.
But the firefighters union says the cuts will lead to fewer job applicants, much in the way recruitment has slowed for the short-staffed police department, which is dealing with the same pension cuts.
Retired Judge Catherine Gallagher, the arbitration board chair, made the ruling nearly four years after voters approved a second “tier” of reduced retirement benefits for new employees, and more than two years after voters set limits on those pensions. Gallagher noted in siding with the city that the voter-approved measures prevented her from adopting anything that increased taxpayer costs.
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