Joint Labor passes on city’s Breakthrough Change invite

The biggest challenge facing City Manager Jim Walton’s Breakthrough Change Initiative is the participation of the Joint Labor Committee of Tacoma.
The initiative targets Risk Management and Employee Compensation and Benefits as areas to explore for cost-savings — areas of utmost importance to the city’s labor unions.

When Walton unveiled the plan at a Jan. 4 study session, he commented, “Inviting people from Joint Labor to be at the table could be seen as a risk. But we need to see them as a resource for a possible solution, rather than an enemy.”

Mayor Baarsma concurred. “An element of trust and a level of openness is the key,” he explained. “There has to be collaborative interest.”
Each committee tasked with addressing four areas for cost-savings — Organizational Restructuring, Risk Management, Employee Compensation and Benefits, and Vehicles and Equipment — allocated open spots for labor representatives.

The extent to which Joint Labor would involve itself in this process was expressed in a letter dated Jan. 31 and addressed to Woodrow Jones, Jr., Human Resources Director for the City of Tacoma, and Chair of the initiative’s Risk Management committee.

“After several lengthy discussions, the Joint Labor Committee has come to the conclusion that participating in these committees could place us in the position of not being able to bargain the impacts (should there be any) to our members wages, hours and working conditions,” wrote Alice A. Phillips, Vice Chair of the Joint Labor Committee.

“We do, however, want to meet with you and your representatives at a point in time when you feel that these committees have reached a consensus on changes that the City of Tacoma may want to implement,” Phillips added.

“It’s sad to get the the letter from Joint Labor,” said Councilman Bill Evans. “I understand their concern that participating may impact their ability to bargain. They obviously had good discussions about this.”

City Manager Walton commented, “We’ll continue to communicate with them in every way we can. We made the offer, they considered it, and they decided not to participate. We’ll continue to move ahead. They have a different mission and we need to respect how they do business.”