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Quan Calls For Weekend Talks To Avert Oakland Worker Strike

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Oakland Mayor Jean Quan delivers the State of the City address at City Hall on February 8, 2012. (CBS)

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan delivers the State of the City address at City Hall on February 8, 2012. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on Friday called for negotiations this weekend to try to avert a one-day strike that city employees plan to conduct on Monday.

Quan said in a statement, “We are continuing to do everything we can to accelerate negotiations and avert a strike. We are willing to negotiate through the weekend, day or night, because we know there is a fair-share agreement to be made.”

Quan issued her statement five hours after leaders of unions representing city employees said at a boisterous rally in front of City Hall that they plan to stage a one-day strike on Monday.

Pete Castelli, the executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said workers plan to walk out for a day because city leaders “are playing games with the budget” and are balancing the city’s budget “on the backs of workers.”

SEIU Local 1021 President Dwight McElroy said workers will go on strike for a day because they think they deserve pay raises after years of city cutbacks.

“We didn’t choose to be on strike but we’re forced to be on strike,” McElroy said.

He said, “It’s time for inclusion and transparency but the city’s budget isn’t inclusive and transparent.”

McElroy said, “I’m sorry, it’s going to take a strike to get it done. On Monday we will go on strike.”

Renee Sykes, the vice president of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents 800 professional employees, said, “The city has failed to engage in meaningful negotiations to avoid a strike.”

Sykes said city employees deserve a raise because over the past five years they have agreed to $150 million in wage cuts, developed $20 million in budget efficiencies, urged hiring freezes and proposed retirement incentive programs so that core services for Oakland residents could be preserved during the economic downturn.

Castelli said after the rally that the next bargaining session isn’t scheduled until July 9.

He said the one-day strike will shut down all city services except emergency and essential services.

In her statement, Quan said, “The City Council has just passed a balanced budget that makes strong investments in public safety, and restores state and federal cuts to housing staff and Head Start. It also leaves funds for serious and needed employee compensation.”

However, she added, “My administration will always respect our employees’ right to lawfully strike.”

Quan said, “To our residents, we apologize in advance for any inconvenience that possible service impacts might cause you.”

Union leaders weren’t immediately available to comment on Quan’s call for contract talks this weekend.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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