Raises set for Balto. County Ruppersberger reaches accords with four unions

April 01, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In a move toward election-year labor peace in 1998, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has reached tentative agreements with four county employee unions that would include a 3 percent bonus by October and a 3 percent general pay raise in July 1998.

But county firefighters -- who last April protested the lack of a pay raise by angrily picketing the executive's annual budget speech -- have yet to agree to the two-year offer, and the union president could not predict the outcome of a ratification vote Friday.

"The negotiating team did not agree to it," said Firefighters Local 1311 President Kevin B. O'Connor, adding that he wanted more time to bargain when the talks ended early Friday.

Even so, the Ruppersberger administration's proposal was enough to win early tentative agreement from unions representing 1,566 police officers, 98 nurses, 750 blue-collar and 1,600 white-collar workers, though the members must ratify the deals in votes this week and next week.

The largest group of county workers -- 13,100 school employees -- negotiates separately with the school board, though money for a 3 percent July 1 pay raise already is budgeted for them.

The 1998 across-the-board pay raise for all workers would be the first since 1994, the last election year, when Executive Roger B. Hayden provided a 4 percent boost but still lost the support of the unions -- and his re-election bid.

Ruppersberger administration spokesman Michael H. Davis says next year's across-the-board pay raise -- which will cost about $23 million -- should not force any increase in taxes.

"We are in better fiscal shape," Davis said, noting the steadily improving economy and Ruppersberger's "prudent" spending of public money.

Despite the firefighters' wariness, most union leaders were pleased with the administration's offer.

"All things considered, I think we did pretty well," said James L. Clark, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents white-collar workers.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4 First Vice President Robert Baldauf said his group was satisfied.

And Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of Local 921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said he was satisfied with the pay package and supported the agreement, although "we didn't get everything we wanted."

The firefighters, however, are upset that, despite a pay parity contract provision that linked fire and police raises, police got a 4 percent raise last year that was labeled a "job reclassification."

Officers with four years' experience could get the raise by qualifying for a new rank of "police officer first class," which has no equal in the fire ranks. A labor grievance is pending.

This year, police are to get a 4.5 percent increase -- the second half of a two-year package -- plus the one-time bonus, because Ruppersberger says police pay is too low compared to other area governments, hurting recruitment.

Pressure this year to conclude contract talks long before Ruppersberger's April 14 budget speech was due to "politically driven decisions," O'Connor said.

Ruppersberger has said he plans to run for a second term next year, though he also is considered a possible challenger to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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