Union workers get 2% pay raise

Council's proposal for 3% rejected

May 25, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

The county's 1,000 blue-collar workers will receive 2 percent raises next year because County Executive Janet S. Owens rejected yesterday the County Council's call to give them 3 percent.

Owens said the council had set a "dangerous precedent" by recommending more than she offered. She called it "an open invitation for [the] union to circumvent county executives simply by waiting them out, then going before the County Council."

Owens added that county employees not represented by unions, and school principals and administrators, also will receive 2 percent more next year. She repeated her view that the blue-collar workers are well-compensated compared with their counterparts in surrounding counties.

By offering 3 percent, the council tried to split the difference between what the union had sought and Owens had offered. Owens had offered 2 percent, while the union wanted 4.6 percent.

Owens' decision surprised council members, because Owens told council leaders Tuesday night she would consider a 3 percent raise.

"I thought that was the understanding," said Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican. "I think that's why the council set their expectations so low. That's the way it works out."

3% plan thought `fair'

Union representatives could not be reached for comment on Owens' decision.

Earlier, Scott Harmon, president of Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had said 3 percent was a "fair compromise."

While some groups of employees will receive 2 percent, others will see much larger increases. Police officers will receive 15 percent more next year because of a 7 percent wage increase and other enhancements. Firefighters will vote next week on a contract that would increase their wages by 19 percent over three years.

Before yesterday's 7-0 vote, several council members asked Harmon which he would prefer: an across-the-board raise or a revamped pay scale that would translate to 2.6 percent raises on average.

"We want both," he said.

In the end, council members felt an across-the-board increase was the fairer option.

pcd,2 That is because some workers would have seen minuscule de facto raises with the new pay scale alone.

"We were trying to do the best we could to help the majority of the employees," said Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat.

Firefighters next

Local 582 was the only bargaining unit that did not reach an agreement with county negotiators. Members of five units have ratified new contracts, with firefighters next.

The county's expert witness warned against a more generous deal with the blue-collar workers by raising the specter of an economic downturn that could drain county coffers. But an independent fact-finder called the county's argument about wages "unpersuasive" and said the climate for giving raises is "as favorable as it has been" in years.

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