Council passes worker raises Annapolis facing labor impasse, suits

July 27, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

The Annapolis City Council last night approved a 2 percent raise for municipal workers.

Earlier yesterday, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. set an Aug. 6 hearing date on a lawsuit alleging unfair labor practices filed by two locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) that represent Annapolis' clerical and maintenance workers.

The suit also seeks to block new work rules imposed by the city.

A similar legal challenge is expected to be filed today by the city police union.

The AFSCME lawsuit, filed on Friday, came three days after city officials declared an impasse in negotiations for a new contract and imposed new rules.

"There is a failure to recognize and support the bargaining rights of the employees of the city of Annapolis," said Joel A. Smith, a lawyer representing Locals 3162 and 3406, whose three-year contract expired June 30.

Besides approving a pay raise for its 500 employees, which is retroactive to July 1, the city imposed the new rules, including changes in health care coverage, which the union said would cost its members more money. Other stipulations rule out overtime compensation and remove contract language that barred contracting out work, according to the suit.

The unions said the city "offered no rationale" for the new rules it sought to "unilaterally impose" and that the city violated the municipal code by failing to meet or discuss alternatives with the unions.

But City Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson said Annapolis is continuing to negotiate a new contract with the unions.

No law prohibits city officials from imposing new work rules once an impasse has been reached, the city said in court papers, adding that the new rules would "improve the efficiency and the cost effectiveness of the city's work force."

"The city has to govern itself during the time there is no contract," said Mr. Hodgson. "The city has implemented its final proposals. Period."

The new health insurance plan is expected to save the city $500,000 a year. Should the court side with the union, Annapolis may be forced to pass a new budget resolution with higher taxes, the city said in its court papers.

A city-commissioned report on government jobs recommended a percent pay increase for most municipal workers. But the City Council last month rejected the recommendation and approved a $38.2 million budget that included 2 percent raises.

"[City negotiators] just said, 'We're giving you 2 percent and it's not debatable,' " said Cecelia Fabula, chief negotiator for the AFSCME locals, which represent about 130 of the municipal workers.

"There's a demonstration of bad faith bargaining," said George Wiszynski, a lawyer representing the city's police union, Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Mr. Wiszynski said the union, which rejected the 2 percent pay raise earlier this month, also would file suit against the city.

Ms. Fabula said the new rules amount to "take-backs" that would require workers to pay upward of $1,000 for the top-end health insurance plan. The new rules would also take away overtime pay and would allow contracting out of city work. But Ms. Fabula said the city has declined to specify what type of work would be contracted out.

Some council members were concerned last night by the impasse and by what Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, called a "deficit-type raise" because workers would pay more for health care. The council agreed to meet on Aug. 9 with city negotiators.

Mr. Gilmer suggested the city might want to look at arbitration, which is what Ms. Fabula called for earlier in the day.

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