City council OKs union contracts White-collar workers, firefighters receive a 2 percent increase

Raise takes effect July 1

Police, blue-collar workers vote next on similar proposal

June 23, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis city council unanimously approved contracts with two unions last night by a 7-to-0 vote, giving firefighters and white-collar workers a 2 percent salary increase -- the first raise city employees have seen in four years.

Yet to be ratified are contracts with the Annapolis police union and the unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents blue-collar workers. Both contracts expire June 29.

Last night's vote resolves some of the labor issues under discussion for the past five months as city officials and union leaders tried to resolve workers' demands for better pay and better retirement benefits.

"Hopefully, we can use this as a stepping stone for next year," said firefighter Dan Grimes, president of the firefighters union. "I'm relieved that it's over."

The city originally offered a 1 percent increase, which was rejected by all four unions. But earlier this month, the city council cut Mayor Dean L. Johnson's budget and shifted money for several projects to give employees at least a 2 percent raise.

The one-year contracts for firefighters and the AFSCME unit that represents white-collar workers will provide members with about $600 to $700 more per year. The raise will go into effect July 1.

The agreement also calls for firefighters to have contributions to their pension fund reduced by 1 percent and a slight increase in their clothing allowance.

Both unions will also have their health insurance coverage extended into the following fiscal year, with the city assuming the cost increase. Annapolis officials say they are spending about $315,000 next year on health care for employees.

"No agreement is ever going to satisfy management or labor," said Alderman Herb McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican. "I am disappointed there is no change in the way the city handles its health care for employees. I must say the city's health care plan is far more generous than the county's, state's or many private companies'.

"We cannot continue to afford this," McMillan said. "I won't support this again next year. I don't think its fair to the taxpayer."

All four unions had asked for an improved retirement plan in which the city would pay more of their health care costs, but that will not happen this time.

Members of the police union and the blue-collar workers are expected to vote Thursday on a similar proposal from the city.

Negotiations with the police union have been far more contentious and public.

The police union placed advertisements in local newspapers to gather public support for its battle for a 4 percent raise and better retirement benefits. The police union also protested at City Hall and at the mayor's groundbreaking for an $8 million traffic circle on West Street.

While Officer John Miller congratulated the other unions on their new contracts last night, he added, "Their goals and objectives are different from ours.

"The services we provide extend above and beyond," said Miller, chief steward of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, which represents 80 city police officers. "We're turning fire hydrants off now as part of our duties. Our tasks keep climbing and our pay keeps getting lower. Something's got to give."

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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