Costa Mesa OK's Privatizing City Jail; City Workers Union Disses Weekly Coverage: Update

See the update on page 2 with the Costa Mesa City Council approving privatization of the city jail and the city workers union finding the Weekly's coverage of last night's vote lacking.

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ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 4, 1:05 P.M.: Those concerned about keeping their jobs at the Costa Mesa city jail have a full day on their metal plates (better to clank against the bars, ya screws!). Attorneys for the Costa Mesa City Employees Association went to court this morning in an unsuccessful bid to get a judge to stop the City Council from outsourcing jail jobs tonight. Next stop: the Costa Mesa council chambers this evening.

These enemy combatants know one another well. The same City Council--well, pretty much the same one--attempted to slash its entire workforce by a third and privatize as much as possible before backing off after the last election.

But now the council is looking at a staff report that notes the state appeals court previously upheld the city's right to privatize its jail and that doing so will save taxpayers about $3 million over five years without layoffs.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Luis Rodriguez denied a temporary restraining order request by the Costa Mesa City Employees' Association to block tonight's council vote, explaining council members would have to approve a contract with a private company before he could weigh the merits of the union's request.

Here's the rub that the union fears: while jail workers will supposedly be able to keep their jobs, no mention is being made about maintaining their pay and benefits.

Observes Geoff West, stirrer of the excellent Costa Mesa city blog A Bubbling Cauldron, "I don't find any reference in the contract language that talks about the pay for those employees who might 'transition' to G4S," the city preferred jail contractor.

Yeah ... but ... come on ... $3 MILLION IN SAVINGS!!!, city staffers are essentially saying. G4S, they further note in a statement emailed this a.m., is a company with 45,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenue in North America that already runs jails in Irvine and Beverly Hills. Costa Mesa do-gooders always play the Irvine card (as in "Why can't we be like OC's Stepford, sniff-sniff?"). But Beverly--Hills, that is--is a new one. Can I move next to Zsa Zsa?

Truth be told--a far stretch in municipal politics, fo' sho'--it's difficult to comprehend what exactly the city is thinking given the language in the report West points to:

While Costa Mesa, for some time, has believed that contracting out jail services was likely to be the best option--particularly inasmuch as it could result in over $3 million in savings to Costa Mesa and its residents--Costa Mesa, with the input of the CMCEA, has given due consideration to all of its options regarding the on-going operation of its jail. After considering CMCEA's input and weighing it options, the CEO has concluded that it is in the best interests of the residents of Costa Mesa to contract out the operation of Costa Mesa's jail including, of significance, the real fiscal benefit this approach will return to Costa Mesa in these difficult economic times.

And:
At this time, the CEO does not recommend that Council layoff any employee currently working in Costa Mesa's jail. Costa Mesa remains open to the possibility of allowing any employee currently working in Costa Mesa's jail to transfer into other Y-Rated positions (if they so desire), and Costa Mesa will continue to work with the employee-representatives of such employees to achieve those transfers (if requested).

As well as:
[G4S is] dedicated to hiring and retention of current City employees into their private service model. The plan will be to do whatever is reasonable and possible to help employees transition either by holding positions with G4S, through utilizing an attrition model or retraining city personnel to work in other areas of the City organization.

Are you utilizing your attrition model, or are you just happy to see me?

Tom Hatch, the city's CEO, sounded as if he wanted to whip out his attrition model to punish those union rabble rousers who dragged the city to court this morning.

"It's unfortunate that the employees' association would initiate more litigation to stop this California Appellate Court-approved action that would save Costa Mesa residents millions of dollars and would provide a plan to keep our current jailers employed by the city," he fumed in a statement.

A final point in favor of G4S, according to staffers: the company has vowed to implement "three new high-tech systems."

Should the push to privatize fail, West wonders why those systems can't be implemented anyway. "That would be good to know," he writes.

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