City Union signs 2-year contract

No raise in 1st year

other primary local may vote tomorrow

November 10, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

With budget problems looming, one of the city's two major unions signed a two-year contract yesterday, and the other union is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to accept a similar offer from City Hall.

The City Union of Baltimore pact, which offers a signing bonus but no raise this year, was reached as the city faces a budget shortfall of millions of dollars this year, in part because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The city imposed a hiring freeze this week, excluding police, fire, the sheriff, the courts and the state's attorney's office.

The CUB contract, which would run until June 30, 2003, and is expected to be approved next week by the Board of Estimates, awards the union's roughly 5,000 members a $700 signing bonus this year and a 3 percent raise next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"We weren't really pleased with that, but the mayor said he didn't have any money," said James A. Carroll, president of CUB, which represents office and clerical staff and other white-collar workers.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' Local 44 are scheduled to vote tomorrow on a similar deal.

Both unions have concerns about the two-year contract because it means relying on next year's budget for a raise.

Ten years ago, then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke asked unions to forgo a promised 6 percent raise, saying that otherwise he would have to lay off 2,000 workers to balance the budget. The workers agreed to defer the raise and ended up accepting more vacation time.

Since then, the typical pattern has been one-year wage agreements.

"We hope that they make good on the second [year] of the contract," Carroll said.

By seeking longer contracts, the O'Malley administration aims to take a break next year from what has been a difficult annual ritual in city government.

"The mayor is going to honor the terms of the contract," mayoral spokesman Tony White said yesterday. "They can take confidence in his word."

The administration's relationship with labor unions was particularly strained this year with Mayor Martin O'Malley's decision to privatize more than 150 jobs, including low-paid maintenance workers.

Union members have essentially been working under contract extensions since July 1, and talks had progressed slowly until recent weeks.

The CUB contract was worked out last month, just weeks after the death in September of the union's president, Sheila Jordan, 49. The union's negotiators wanted to reject the terms, but the membership voted to accept the deal.

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