Agreement struck to ease L.A. budget crisis

LOS ANGELES Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives of the Engineers and Architects Association announced the deal Tuesday. It requires workers to pay five percent of their monthly health care premiums. Co-pays are also increasing.

Currently, city employees do not pay for their basic health plan. The labor agreement has been approved by the union's nearly 5,000 members. In exchange, the number of unpaid furlough days they'll be forced to take will be reduced from 26 to 10 this year.

"They came to the negotiating table cognizant of the fact that as a city, we're family. They understood that negotiations were not about demonizing one another or about demagoguery. Fundamentally, it was about working together to solve some very serious problems that must be dealt with now before we reach a breaking point," said Villaraigosa.

The mayor went on to say, "No one wants to furlough people. I know that there are services lost when workers are forced to take days off in an effort to reel in costs. No one wants to ask workers and their families, who are already feeling the squeeze of the recession, to make further sacrifices, but in this economy, shared sacrifice is the name of the game. We simply cannot afford to continue the status quo."

According to Villaraigosa, the unemployment rate in the city is 14 percent. He says the city is doing everything possible to find new ways to generate revenue. He says it is also important to make changes today so that rising health care and pension costs can be sustained over the long term.

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