City, union indicate willingness to enter mediation in 5-day strike

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Oakland's mayor and the larger of the two unions representing the city's 3,000 striking workers Friday indicated a willingness to enter mediation, though the strike has continued today.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Friday that if members of city workers' two unions didn't accept the city's final contract offer, she hoped they would agree to enter mediation.

Hours later, Rob Szykowny, chief negotiator for the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, announced that City of Oakland workers had contacted the city to identify a mediator to assist the union and the city in reaching an agreement.

City employees are also represented by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21.

"We reached out to city negotiators to select a mutually agreeable mediator, despite the Mayor's decision to prematurely declare impasse in negotiations," Szykowny said in a statement.

He was referring to the fact that City of Oakland leaders declared an impasse earlier Friday in their talks with the unions.

"City workers are committed to pursuing every avenue to ensure that Mayor Schaaf addresses the challenges facing Oakland workers and families," Szykowny said.

On Friday, Schaaf said that if the unions don't accept the city's offer to work with a state mediator it's possible that they might request fact-finding, a non-binding process where an impartial third party listens to both sides and recommends a solution.

But Schaaf said that process would be lengthy and could take a year.

Schaaf also said Friday that it's unclear whether union employees would remain on strike during mediation or fact-finding.

The mayor said the unions rejected the city's final offer early Friday morning and made a counter-offer that she claimed is "too financially risky" for the city to accept.

Schaaf said the unions already have had an 8 percent raise over the previous two years and the city is offering a 4 percent wage increase retroactive to July 1 and a possible second 2 percent wage increase in June 2019, depending on growth in city revenue.

Union leaders say they called the strike to protest unfair labor practices by the city, workplace conditions, understaffing levels and cost of living concerns.

SEIU Local 1021 represents more than 2,000 public works employees, parking enforcementofficers, Head Start instructors and early education teachers.

IFPTE Local 21 represents about 1,000 professional and technical employees, including engineers, building inspectors and planners.

Union employees held a large rally in front of City Hall during the lunch hour Friday at which several local and state elected officials said they support the employees and urged the city to meet their demands.

The city's contract talks with the unions are now in their seventh month and Schaaf said the city has been meeting with them an average of four times a week in an effort to reach an agreement.