"After two and one-half years of uncertainty, Costa Mesa, its residents and employees will all benefit from assured continuity of municipal services and relative stability in the workplace," reads a statement on CostaMesaWorks.com. "A commitment by the city to not institute layoffs during the term of this MOU will be a significant step in that direction."

The proposal also calls for implementing alternative work schedules, such as a 10-hour workday for four days, rather than eight hours over five days. "Non-essential" city functions may also be closed between Dec. 24 and Jan. 1 as a cost-saving measure.

Thursday's bargaining-table discussion lasted about an hour and a half, Muir said.

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"Generally, we talked about our proposal and our desire to turn a tide, to turn a new leaf with the city and work collaboratively," Muir said. "Our purpose obviously represents a desire to partner with the city and have a positive relationship, and also to install transparency and accountability."

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Next step

The next meeting date to discuss CMCEA's contract, which expired in March, is Sept. 24.

The city's offer — presented Aug. 6 with help from an independent negotiator, Richard Kreisler — included an across-the-board 5% pay cut and a 5% increase in pension contributions. The CMCEA leadership dubbed the proposal "offensive," though Righeimer said it was a return to "normalcy" and that city employees are, by and large, well compensated for their service.

Costa Mesa's initial offer also asked for various cuts to employee sick leave and vacation time as well as a potential 5% cut in such time for top-tiered employees during performance reviews.

Righeimer said at the time that one of his biggest problems with the current setup was the ability of some employees to "cash out" unused sick leave and vacation time in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars.

The government payroll system, Righeimer told the Daily Pilot in August, is like a "science of how you can drastically increase your income without the world knowing what you're really making."