|New Tacoma Contract Gives Many City Workers Raises ||09/17/2012
|TACOMA, WA—Tacoma's City Council executed a new contract for 239 city employees across various departments Tuesday - an agreement that will cost the city about $125,000 more per year in pay raises to be covered by the next general fund budget.
The council's action will increase pay for Teamsters Local Union No. 117 bargaining unit members by 2.7 percent next year, including 34 employees covered by the general fund. The move comes amid a projected $60 million budget shortfall in 2013-14.
Several council members stressed this week that, despite a new contract with pay raises, the city will seek to negotiate pay and health care concessions from all of the city's 29 bargaining units in the coming weeks to help Tacoma balance its next budget.
"There's no way to solve that big of a budget hole without labor concessions," Jake Fey said this week. "It's either that or deeper cuts and layoffs, so I think it's in the best interest of our labor partners to work with us at the bargaining table."
Jeff Clark, business representative for Local 117, said Tuesday that bargaining members already agreed to wage freezes in 2011 and 2012 as part of the pact.
He added that union members are "always willing to talk to the city" amid the ongoing budget realities.
The city so far has enacted contracts with 12 bargaining units that now call for some level of pay raises in the next budget, said John Dryer, Tacoma's labor-relations manager.
Some of those contracts cover bargaining units with few or no general fund-covered employees, he added. Dryer could not readily say Tuesday how much in total the already-negotiated pay raises will affect the coming budget.
The contract approved for Local 117 had been in the works for nearly two years - before the city's dire budget forecasts became apparent, Dryer said.
The four-year contract executed Tuesday runs, beginning retroactively, from 2011-14. It covers about 239 employees, including such disparate city positions as non-sworn police administrators, code-enforcement officers, Tacoma Public Utilities workers and city public works maintenance crews. The contract covers about $41 million in pay, with about $8 million of that covered by the general fund.
The agreement calls for no pay raises in 2011 and this year, a 2.7 percent cost-of-living pay raise next year, and a market-based pay raise to be determined in 2014.
It also adds crime analysts and technicians to the unit, provides an increase from $10 to $15 in employee meal allowances during unscheduled overtime shifts, and includes some pay enhancements for certain police and public works employees who use specialized jobs skills.
"These are hardworking men and women who deserve to be justly compensated," Clark said.
Also Tuesday, the council executed two other city employee contracts: one covering five Tacoma Public Utilities yard clerks, the other for 19 Tacoma Police captains and lieutenants. Both contracts include pay raises to be deferred and/or determined later. The yard clerks' agreement will not affect the city's general fund; the police managers' pact is projected to cost the general fund about $7,200 in 2013 and $5,900 in 2014.
Amid ballooning costs and stagnating revenues, city budget officials announced in June that the city faces a $60 million to $65 million gap in the 2013-14 general fund budget and an $80 million to $85 million shortfall in 2015-16.
Salaries and benefits account for about 60 percent of general fund expenses.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax is expected to present a 2013-14 budget proposal to the council in October. As part of his budget process, Broadnax has held several community meetings and has asked city department heads to propose up to 15 percent in cuts to their respective departments.
Councilman Ryan Mello said Tuesday he expects Broadnax to brief the council with weekly reports on labor-concession negotiations in the coming weeks.
"Concessions are part of the equation," Mello said. "It's not the only solution, but it's part of the solution."
Kamb, Lewis. "New Tacoma Contract Gives Many City Workers Raises". The News Tribune. August 29, 2012. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/08/29/2