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Tacoma: Council executes new contract with Teamsters Local 117, calling for pay raises amid grim budget forecast

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Aug. 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm with No Comments »
August 29, 2012 10:37 am

Tacoma’s City Council unanimously executed a new contract for 239 city employees across various departments today — an agreement that will cost the city about $125,000 more per year in pay raises 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 raises for 34 employees who are paid out of the financially strapped 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 Monday. “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, noted today that members of his bargaining unit already agreed to wage freezes in 2011 and 2012 as part of the new agreement.

“Those are concessions we’ve already bargained,” Clark said.

He added union members are “always willing to talk to the city” amid the ongoing budget realities.

In all, the city has so far 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, Dryer said.  He could not readily say Tuesday how much in total the already negotiated pay raises will impact the coming budget.

The contract executed with Local 117 Tuesday had been in the works for nearly two years – before the city’s dire budget forecasts became apparent, Dryer said.

The four-year contract runs retroactively from 2011 to 2014.  It covers about 239 employees that include such disparate city positions as non-sworn police administrators, code enforcement officers, Tacoma Public Utilities workers and city public works maintenance crews. In all, 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 adjustment next year; and a market based pay raise to be determined in 2014.

It also adds crime analysts and technicians into 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 hard-working men and women who deserve to be justly compensated,” Clark said.

Also Tuesday, the council executed two other city employee contracts: one covering five TPU 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 impact 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 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 already 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 today 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.”


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