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City of Tacoma runs numbers on new union contracts

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
September 24, 2010 5:40 pm

A while back, I vented some frustrations about trying to get salary data from the City of Tacoma. I had asked city staff for the average salary increase given city workers in 2010 and was told that it varied by union because of an ongoing effort to rejigger pay scales to more appropriately reflect job duties and market pay.

City officials couldn’t tell me at the time what the average pay raise per bargaining unit was, nor what net impact the contracts had had on the city budget, but they promised to get back to me. Today, spokesman Rob McNair-Huff emailed me that information. Here’s what we now know, with more to come:

• City employees who belong to the five unions that settled contracts with 2010 effective dates received average increases ranging from 4 percent (wastewater technicians, operators and electricians) to nearly 11 percent (supervisors in customer service, fire electrical and traffic operations).

• The cost of paying those raises was nearly $2.9 million in 2010. About $1.6 million of that is paid from general tax revenue; the remainder comes from Tacoma Public Utilities receipts.

• The city has approved new pay scales for eight bargaining units representing approximately 700 employees, but still has far to go. The city has yet to settle with seven units representing roughly 1,100 workers. I’m not sure how City Manager Eric Anderson’s reported proposal for wage freezes would affect those bargaining units that have yet to settle.

• In 2009, the city settled contracts with three unions representing 155 employees. Those raises/costs don’t appear in the information McNair-Huff provided, so the $2.9 million figure covers – at best – one-third of the unionized workforce eligible for adjustments under the city’s market pay initiative.

These costs come on top of the bow wave created by the Tacoma City Council’s decision in late 2008 to reset the pay of its 942 nonunion workers in 2008. The cost to the city and its utilities at that time was $6 million.

Anderson is due to present his 2011-12 budget proposal to the council by Oct. 1. We should have a better picture of the role employee wages are playing in city budget troubles then.

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