A city union that represents over 400 emergency dispatchers, school security guards, and a diverse array of public administrative and clerical staff has come to a new collective bargaining agreement with the city after working without a contract for nearly two years.
During a Board of Alders Finance Committee hearing at City Hall on Thursday night, City Budget Director Joe Clerkin presented some of the key provisions of the new five-year contract between the city and AFSCME Local 884.
The local represents 411 city employees in a variety of non-managerial positions, ranging from data control clerks and accounts payable auditors in the city’s Finance Department to school security guards to 911 dispatchers.
The local’s membership voted to ratify the agreement on May 25. The Board of Alders has until July 9 to approve or reject the terms of the deal. The committee did not take a vote on it Thursday night.
The new contract is the union’s first since its previous agreement with the city expired at the end of June 2015. The five-year collective bargaining agreement is retroactive, picking up where the local’s previous contract ended on July 1, 2015 and extending through June 30, 2020.
Although the Local 844 contract is just one legislative vote away from taking effect, the city is still in negotiations with a number of public unions currently working with long-expired contracts.
After the committee hearing, Clerkin said that the city is currently in contract negotiations with the police union, the AFSCME Local 3144 supervisors union, the Local 1303-464 attorneys union, and the nurses union. He also said that the city and the Local 424 Public Works union are currently in binding arbitration over their contract.
Local 3144’s most recent contract expired in June 2015, and the police, attorneys, and public works unions’ most recent contracts each expired in June 2016.
3% In Year One
According to Clerkin’s presentation and a letter submitted to the alders by lawyer Floyd Dugas of Berchem, Moses, and Devlin PC, a local law firm that the city has contracted with to conduct union negotiations in the continued absence of a permanent labor relations director, the financial highlights of the new agreement with Local 844 include modest wage increases and increased medical benefit contributions by employees.
The union membership will receive an across-the-board wage increase of 3 percent for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, 2 percent for FY 2018, 2.25 percent for FY 2019, and 2.5 percent for FY 2020. The city anticipates that these salary raises will represent a cumulative increase of $2.5 million for the General Funds budget and $1.1 million for the special funds budget by the end of the contract term.
The city seeks to counterbalance the impact of a portion of those salary increases through higher employee contributions for retiree and medical benefits.
Employee contributions for retiree benefits will increase by .50 percent in FY 2018, .75 percent in FY 2019, and 1.25 percent in FY 2020.
Similarly, the employee share of medical contributions for three of the four available coverage plans will increase between 3-5 percent above current levels over the course of the contract term.
To encourage adoption of the health care plan with the highest deductibles ($2,000 for individuals, $4,000 for families), the city has lowered the cost share for that plan from the current rate of 11 percent to 9 percent for FY 2018, and has promised to cover 65 percent of the deductible in FY 2018 and 50% of the deductible thereafter.
The contract also includes a health incentive plan that rewards measures taken towards preventive care, and penalizes those who do not participate in preventive and chronic condition care programs.
The city anticipates saving over $1.2 million in medical coverage costs and over $400,000 in retirement benefits costs by the end of the contract term.
Rather than take a vote, the alders discharged the proposed contract to the full Board of Alders, which meets next on July 5. That way, instead of conducting a “first reading” of the bill but waiting until a following meeting to actually vote on it, the full board will be able to debate and vote on the contract at that July 5 meting.
Labor Relations Director Finally Found?
At Thursday night’s hearing, Annex Alder Al Paolillo, Jr. asked Clerkin about the status of the city’s labor relations director. The position, which now falls under the Corporation Counsel’s department, has been vacant since Mayor Harp fired then-Director Marcus Paca in April 2016.
“I understand that a final candidate has been identified, and that the city will be able to make that hire sooner rather than later,” Clerkin responded. He said that the mayor and the corporation counsel have been taking the lead in interviewing and narrowing down candidates, and estimated that someone will be in the role later this summer.