City approves one-year contract extensions with police, union employees

The City Council approved one-year contract extensions Wednesday night for both the Police Guild and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

Union and city officials said the compromise came as a result of the city’s current economic situation and an effort to keep costs down as much as possible. The contracts were due to expire at the end of this year.

Both unions will forego their annual 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for 2011, a savings of about $170,000 over the 2009 wage agreements, according to city officials.

The IAM also agreed to switch its health plan to a different carrier next year, which will represent a savings of about $57,000 over 2009 costs for the city.

For its part in the deal, the city agreed not to implement in 2011 the existing mandatory furlough program for city employees.

“The extension agreements will be a great help to the city in many ways,” interim City Manager Brenda Bauer said in a press release. She negotiated the extensions with the two unions’ chief stewards. The new health care plans and no cost-of-living increase will also apply to unrepresented employees for additional savings of about $78,000, Bauer said. The city is now entering the budget planning process for the next biennium.

“I was very pleased when the Police Guild and IAM approached me with proposals,” Bauer said. “It’s a powerful symbolic statement of the commitment our city workers have to the city’s and the community’s well-being and a smart move by the council. The council was seeking some meaningful savings in exchange for any contract extensions, and we were able to negotiate and meet many of council’s labor objectives for this next year.”

IAM Chief Steward Paul Miller said employees approved the rollover by a 51-1 vote Tuesday afternoon. “It just made sense that it would be better for both parties to do it this way,” he said.

Miller said the language involving job security will remain the same, in that the city cannot lay off an IAM employee and then replace the worker with a non-union member or a sub-contractor. The city currently has 120 FTE employees, 80 of whom are union members.

Scott Weiss, the Police Guild’s representative, said his 20 members voted unanimously to approve the extension.

“We recognized that money is a little tight and we were just trying to figure out how it would be mutually good for both sides. So the officers decide that we’d give up COLA. And just avoiding the negotiation process saved everyone a lot of money, too.”

The Police Guild wasn’t involved in the furlough program and will continue to be on the same health plan next year.

Miller said he had several conversations with Bauer after sending her a memo during her second week on the job in early June about an extension .

“Why? A lot of reasons,” Miller said. “Part of it is that there’s a new management team and the city is going through a period of adjustment. And by not going through negotiations, there would be savings, like $40,000 for an outside labor attorney. The staff has had some morale challenges with layoffs and other issues, too. We just thought the staff needed a break, rather than going through negotiations at this time.”

Miller added that because of the possibility of some city services being lost, such as Kitsap Public Utility District taking over the city’s water utilities, it was decided to postpone negotiating for a new contract at a time when it’s still uncertain what the city will look like a year from now.

Mayor Bob Scales agreed.

“This will allow the staff, administration and council to focus on developing a balanced budget in a time of declining revenues,” Scales said. “Once the budget is complete, the city and unions will have a better understanding of revenues and expenditures and this will guide the contract negotiations next summer.”

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