Almost all of Baltimore's 26,294 municipal workers will receive back pay they sacrificed in a 1992 "wage furlough," according to a settlement announced yesterday between the city and three unions.
The city agreed to repay a little more than half of the 2 1/2 days of pay that was withheld as a money-saving measure to cope with $40 million in state budget cuts.
For a city schoolteacher who earns about $30,000, that would mean $180, said Linda Prudente, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Teachers Union, which represents about 8,500 teachers. Employees who receive an annual salary of $20,000 will be repaid $120; those with a salary of $40,000 stand to get about $240, she said.
Three of Baltimore's largest municipal labor unions sued after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced the plan to withhold a half-day's pay from workers' salaries for 10 pay periods. The wage furlough was halted after the state restored some aid.
Claims in the lawsuit by the Baltimore Teachers Union, the City Union of Baltimore and the Fraternal Order of Police were upheld in U.S. District Court, but rejected when the city appealed. The unions then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the case was sent back to District Court.
A hearing was scheduled yesterday before Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young, but the city decided to settle.
"It turned out that both sides could meet each other halfway," said William R. Phelan, assistant city solicitor. "There was a real prospect of this going on for many more years."
The settlement is expected to cost the city $3.9 million, said Budget Director Edward J. Gallagher.
Under the settlement, all blue-collar and white-collar workers except for 1,736 firefighters and fire officers will receive a little more than 1 1/4 days of pay that was withheld in early 1992. The city did not withhold any money from the firefighters, as part of an arbitration agreement at the time.
"This has been a really long battle, and we really feel good for city employees," Ms. Prudente said. "We feel vindicated by this win."
The settlement still must be approved by the Board of Estimates, the five-member panel that reviews all city financial transactions.