Public safety unions accept contract offer Unhappy firefighters vote 239-207 in Balto. Co.

April 05, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County firefighters and police voted last night to approve new labor agreements offered by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, although the firefighters aren't happy about the deal.

Firefighters approved the package by a 239-207 vote, compared to a 92 percent margin of approval from the police.

"This is the most contentious union event I have ever presided over," said Kevin B. O'Connor, president of Baltimore County Fire Fighters Local 1311.

He said the members of his union were "disgusted" and felt the administration showed "no commitment to the fire service and its members."

Last year firefighters picketed outside Ruppersberger's annual April budget speech to protest the lack of a pay raise. County workers have received a general pay raise only once since 1991, and Ruppersberger hasn't granted any general increases since he took office in 1995.

Voting the offer down this year would have cost each of the 1,100 firefighters an average of $2,400 in additional pay and benefits, O'Connor said, and would have gained them nothing.

"I feel good about what we put on the table," Ruppersberger said.

The basic offer this year is a one-time payment of 3 percent of annual pay by October, followed by a 3 percent across-the-board increase in July 1998.

The police and firefighters unions were the backbone of Ruppersberger's volunteer election campaign corps in 1994, when he unseated incumbent Republican Roger B. Hayden as county executive.

The 1,566-member police force has remained loyal, especially after the county executive gave officers with at least four years of experience a 4 percent pay raise last year, with the promise of a 4.5 percent increase this year. Ruppersberger argued that police needed an increase because their salaries lag behind those in other jurisdictions, making recruitment difficult.

Three county employee unions representing nurses, white-collar and blue-collar workers approved the administration's offer this week by lopsided margins.

Local 921 of the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees, representing 750 workers, voted 52-2 in favor of the offer Thursday. Earlier, the Federation of Public Employees, AFL-CIO, representing about 1,600 white-collar workers and correctional officers, voted 100-2 for approval, and the Federation of Public Health Nurses, with 70 members, voted 20-0 in favor.

Money to provide the 13,100 school board employees a 3 percent pay raise in July is in the budget Ruppersberger is set to announce April 14.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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