All Akron employees will receive raises next year and the two years after that.
Akron City Council approved legislation Monday that ratified a historic tentative agreement with all four of the city’s unions and gave raises to both union and nonunion employees, including the mayor and his Cabinet.
Akron council members were among those awarded raises, and some members aren’t sure they should get them. But they set aside their argument to vote on the legislation that union members have been waiting seven weeks to see approved.
“The city’s employees are very deserving,” said Councilman Garry Moneypenny, who heads council’s finance committee. “We did not want to delay this because of our own debate.”
Union members were getting antsy about the delay in council approving the deal negotiated in secret between Mayor Don Plusquellic and the four union presidents. The tentative agreement was reached in early October and the unions moved as quickly as their contracts would allow to set up votes, with their members overwhelmingly approving the three-year pact. All that was needed was for council to follow suit.
Union leaders, who together attended the council meetings last week and Monday, were pleased council finally acted, unanimously approving the legislation. They were being deluged by phone calls and emails from concerned union members.
“This is a good deal,” said Paul Hlynsky, president of the police union. “It’s a common-sense deal. Akron will be able to do without the huge costs both sides have to pay in negotiations.”
George Johnson, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said council’s approval of the pact will calm the anxiety of union members.
“The longer it drags out, the more they feel like something’s going on,” he said.
Diane Miller-Dawson, Akron’s finance director, said the delay was caused by the complexity of crafting an ordinance giving raises to so many different employee groups. The process included getting approval from the Civil Service Commission on a new hourly wage for employees who are in training to become police officers and firefighters. (They will earn $15 an hour.)
“It was more complicated than we thought,” Miller-Dawson said.
Miller-Dawson said the pact represents the first time the city has successfully negotiated an agreement with all of its unions at once, avoiding the need for the long and expensive process that often includes a third party’s involvement. Plusquellic met with the union presidents, who proposed the idea of trying to peacefully reach an agreement.
Under the legislation, members of AFSCME, the Civil Service Personnel Association, the fire and police unions, and nonunion employees will receive raises of 2 percent in 2013 and 1 percent in both 2014 and 2015 with potential bonuses of up to 2 percent in 2014 and 2015, contingent on city income tax revenue. All other parts of the union contracts, including health-care coverage, remain the same.
Details of the agreement, thought to be the first of its kind in Ohio, include:
• The 2013 raise will be given on Dec. 30, 2012.
• The 2014 raise will be given Jan. 5. In January 2015, the amount collected in income taxes from January through June 2014 and July through December 2014 will be compared with the amount collected in the same periods in 2013. The net percentage increase for either six-month period or both — minus the 1 percent already paid to employees — will be the bonus paid to each employee based on regular and overtime earnings in 2014. The combined amount of the raise and the bonus may not exceed 3 percent.
• The 2015 raise will be given Jan. 4. The same calculation used in 2014 will be used to determine if bonuses should be given in 2015.
• The raises each year will be added to union members’ base pay, while the bonuses won’t. The bonuses will be pensionable, retroactive to January of that year.
The raises will cost the city $1.9 million in 2013, and this amount, plus an additional $985,000 for each 1 percent awarded, in 2014 and 2015, Miller-Dawson said.
Council members at an upcoming meeting plan to discuss whether they should forgo all or part of their raises in 2013. The council president currently earns $42,474 annually and council members receive $33,010 a year. They also receive benefits.
“I do think it’s worth looking at,” Moneypenny said.
Donnie Kammer, the Ward 7 councilman, is among those who think council members shouldn’t get raises.
“Whatever we can do to help the rest of the city move forward,” he said. “We are here to serve them [the citizens]. I encourage council to think about it.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.