SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego can begin implementing provisions of a voter-approved initiative reforming its employee pension system, as long as negotiations with unions continue, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Superior Court Judge Luis Vargas denied a motion for a preliminary injunction against Proposition B filed by the state Public Employment Relations Board, which investigates union complaints.
Vargas had previously halted implementation on an interim basis so he could hear arguments from the two sides. He acknowledged in Tuesday's ruling that PERB held its own hearing on the ballot measure and has the initial jurisdiction in the case.
The city's employee unions contend that the initiative should never have been placed before voters because city officials did not negotiate its contents with them first. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said that since the proposition was the product of private citizens, the meet-and-confer process was not required until after the vote.
The judge ruled that bargaining between the city and its unions was progressing, and the process would not be affected by his denial of the injunction.
Proposition B passed with support from two-thirds of the city's voters in the June 5 election.
When implemented, most new employees will be given 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of being enrolled in the debt-ridden pension system. The measure also limits, for five years, the type of compensation that can be used to later calculate a worker's retirement payout.
"The voters have spoken and now the city will act to implement their will," Mayor Jerry Sanders said. "This initiative, which has now become a national model, will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that can instead be used to extend library hours and hire more police officers and firefighters."
Goldsmith said he was looking forward to continued bargaining with the labor unions.