Public employee unions face criticism across the nation — fairly and unfairly — for their impacts on state and city budgets.
That is why last Tuesday’s announcement of a deficit-reducing pension deal between Berkeley city officials and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 — which represents the city’s maintenance and clerical workers — is so refreshing.
The ability of the city and the union to come to an agreement regarding pensions is a welcome sign of a government ready to address budgetary concerns.
This deal shows the necessity of compromise when dealing with budget issues and that unions are not the budget-busting stalwarts so many have painted them to be.
Essentially, unions must have a seat at the table when discussing budget solutions, and as this pension reform deal shows, unions can be willing to act responsibly in the best interest of the city.
Though the pension deal addresses a small portion of the the city’s budget deficit, it has many positives — deferring salary increases and lowering the percentage that workers receive after retirement from 2.7 to 2 percent of their highest annual salary are the standouts — and the resulting savings are a step in the right direction.
These concessions, though painful for some, are absolutely necessary for the financial solvency of the city. Thus we commend the union and its workers, who overwhelmingly adopted the deal, for their pragmatism and understanding.
But because the cost of living is in constant flux, the possible necessity for pension reform in the years to come cannot be disregarded.
While we fully endorse the current deal, citizens, workers and officials cannot become complacent. The city still faces a large deficit that must be dealt with in a timely manner.
Though the deal was an overall victory for the financially prudent, the city must still make difficult decisions regarding the budget.
We hope that this is the beginning of a series of budgetary compromises that will maintain the integrity of city services while balancing finances.