Savings go back to employees

EAST LIVERPOOL – City employees could be seeing bonuses this year and a raise in their paychecks next year if City Council approves legislation proposed by its finance committee.

The committee met Tuesday morning to review several ordinances that would amend existing wage ordinances for members of the Fraternal Order of Police (patrolmen and captains), Glass Molders, Pottery, Plastic and Allied Workers (dispatchers) and AFSCME (street, water, wastewater and refuse) unions as well as non-union employees.

Members of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 24 union was not included in the proposed increases since the union has not yet filed or indicated a desire to begin negotiations, according to Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell.

Estell has been handling negotiations with the various unions for several months and advised the committee that by not hiring labor lawyers and fact finders, a considerable amount of money was saved.

“(The cost of) this contract falls under what it would have cost (to bring in outside consultants). We saved money by settling,” Estell emphasized.

The proposal forwarded for council’s consideration at Monday’s meeting provides for a one-time wage bonus of $1,500 for employees hired prior to Jan. 1 of this year, payable in May for full-time employees with more than 12 months of continuous service.

Those full-time employees with between six and 12 months service would receive a $750 bonus; and those with less than six months, $375.

Part-time employees who average 20 hours per week or more would receive a $500 bonus, and part-time employees who average less than 20 hours per week, $250.

Employees hired after Jan. 1 but prior to March 1 of this year will be given two options from which to choose: They can receive a one-time wage bonus of $375 during the month of May or they can receive a one-time bonus payable after their one-year anniversary date of $500.

Additionally, bargaining unit employees will receive a 45-cent-per-hour increase starting Jan. 1, 2014.

For patrolmen and captains, a 45-cent shift differential was also included in the proposal that will bring them into line with other departments that already have second- and third-shift differentials.

For non-union employees, the proposal also includes a change in car allowance for the housing inspector from a flat $100 per month fee to 72-cents per hour worked.

Estell said a 20-cent-per-hour increase per employee for each of the two years was also considered but offering a bonus this year and the 45-cent increase next will actually be $500,000 less expensive over a 10-year period.

After the meeting, Estell said the proposed increases will cost the general fund $143,854 over the two-year period, assuming the fire department signs on. Without the fire department, the cost would be $27,000 less from the general fund.

Increases to other funds to pay for the raises would include: Water department, $49,000; wastewater, $24,600; and $26,800, refuse/recycling.

Over a 10-year period, the increases would cost the general fund $590,000, providing the fire department is included. Without the fire department, the 10-year cost would be $480,000.

The total equates to about a 2.5 percent hourly raise over the two-year period, according to Estell.

“This is a pretty good compromise for everybody. Most employees haven’t seen a raise in awhile,” Estell told the committee, saying offering the increases also helps employee morale.

Mayor Jim Swoger agreed, saying, “We have to show a little appreciation to our people. Our men and women are worth this.”

Councilman Ray Perorazio sat in on the committee meeting and said, while he agrees 100 percent with the proposal, if he were still head of the firefighters’ union, “we’d be going to arbitration.” He said the fire union could come back and say it won’t sign off on the proposal, insisting instead on an hourly increase.

Estell said, “We can’t force them to file (to negotiate).”

Committee Chairman Sherrie Curtis pointed to the fact that council has instituted new starting salaries much lower than in previous years and have negotiated other concessions in vacation buy-outs and longevity aimed at saving the city money.

Referring to those who sometimes criticize council for not making long-term plans, saying, “The savings will come. Within five to 10 years we will be experiencing great savings.”

The committee agreed to move all the ordinances on for council’s consideration.