There’s a possibility that the labor talks that led to the imposition of contracts on two unions may not be over.
The city’s blue-collar union sent a letter to the city’s labor relations director late last week asking that the city restart negotiations, said Joan Raymond, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127.
|AFSCME Local 127 President Joan Raymond talks to City Councilwoman Donna Frye Monday afternoon outside the city’s Civic Center. Photo: Sam Hodgson|
Union members also started a vigil at City Hall on Sunday night aimed at convincing the City Council to delay adopting the salary ordinance codifying the effects of the contracts. The vigil will continue until Tuesday afternoon, when the council is slated to vote on the salary ordinance.
Raymond said the letter asking the city to restart negotiations stems from a proposal the union offered after the council’s April 14 vote to impose one-year contracts on the blue-collar workers and police.
She said the union’s proposal still reaches the $2.4 million in cuts that Mayor Jerry Sanders was seeking but in a different way than the contract that was imposed on workers. That contract calls for employees to take over a 5.4 percent share of their pension contribution, which the city now pays for.
The union has now proposed reducing the portion of employee pension contributions picked up by the city to less than 3 percent, Raymond said. The union also proposed having employees waive the city’s 3 percent contributions to the city’s supplemental retirement plan and reducing the amount of money received by employees who opt out of the city’s health care plan.
The effect, Raymond said, is that the city would save the same amount of money, but less cash would come out of worker’s paychecks. The union is also seeking a two-year contract, like the three unions that came to agreements with the city.
Raymond said union officials never made this offer before April 14 because they thought temporarily suspending benefits would be enough.
“It seems like the mayor and the council wanted it to be permanent, although there’s a twist to that too, and that’s the furloughs that’s allowed for the other union,” said Raymond, referring to the city’s white-collar employee union. “We don’t see that as permanent or structural.”
Raymond said she still doesn’t know why the council rejected the union’s offer during negotiations.
“I don’t know if it was unacceptable or confusion or they were intimidated by the mayor and were afraid to ask questions,” she said. “I just don’t know what the reason is frankly. But there’s still time to undo that vote.”
It’s clear why the union is seeking to undo the vote, but some council members could be receptive to the idea, in part because of a labor complaint the union filed against the city.