Long Beach's largest union has filed a grievance with the city after more than a dozen employee promotions awarded last year were reversed, said local Civil Services Employee Association president John Mooney.

The unbudgeted pay raises given to 14 CSEA employees were issued just before the prior administration left office at the end of December and would have cost the city more than $52,000 per year, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

"The previous administration ran out of cash at the very same moment they were handing out unbudgeted rewards in a very cynical manner, putting the city's workers in a bad position," Schnirman said. With Long Beach in a fiscal crisis, he said the city will take an "across-the-board approach to cost savings" and continue to scrutinize "last-minute unbudgeted raises and promotions."

Mooney called it "a slap in the face," saying the promotion reversals destroyed the morale of many union workers who "go above and beyond."

"It's more about respect than anything," he said, adding that the CSEA is the city's lowest-paid workforce. "Nobody likes bad news. The economy is screwed up all over the country, but at the end of the day you'd like to hear from the person in charge, 'Look, this isn't personal,' but to me it doesn't look that way."

The move seems political, he added, because the CSEA endorsed local Republicans before the November election. The GOP lost, and now a Democratic City Council is in power.

Schnirman rebuffed that claim. " 'Political' would be handing out selected rewards at the 11th hour," he said. "Here's the real question, and it remains unanswered: Why were these unbudgeted, unaffordable raises and promotions done during a fiscal crisis at the 11th hour of an administration on its way out the door?"

Former City Manager Charles Theofan did not return a call for comment.

Mooney said he was notified Feb. 10 of the promotion reversals -- actually changes in job grades -- and the CSEA filed a grievance four days later.

But, he added, the city and the union are still working well together on other issues, such as a recently announced early retirement incentive being offered to 52 CSEA members.

"I appreciate they're doing it," Mooney said after a meeting with Schnirman about the incentive. "It's a good thing for the city and for the workers."

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