Originally Posted Online: May 25, 2010, 5:36 pm
Last Updated: May 25, 2010, 9:48 pm
AFSCME upset with city negotiations in Rock Island
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By Brandy Donaldson, email@example.com
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Rick Hitchcock is the president of AFSCME Local 988 chapters A and B - the labor union that represents about 140 Rock Island city employees. Like the Rock Island police command officers and firefighters, AFSCME Local 988 also wants a new contract, but is unsatisfied with negotiations.
ROCK ISLAND -- This year's contract negotiations between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 988 have been "humiliating" to the union, its president said Tuesday.
AFSCME Local 988 president Rick Hitchcock said his members are being treated as "second rate" employees.
The local's two chapters represent around 140 city employees whose jobs range from 911 dispatching and clerical work through snow removal and information technology. Contract negotiations, which began in February, have been civil yet unacceptable, Mr. Hitchcock said.
"They are dragging their feet again," he said. "We're not asking for anything outrageous. But we have a hand in every critical operation and service the city offers, and we are disappointed. The city offered us their final proposal at the beginning of May, and it was humiliating at best. It was unacceptable."
Neither he nor city manager John Phillips would talk about specifics of issues, but Mr. Phillips did say the city feels it has been more than fair.
"We didn't approach the bargaining unit about reopening the contract last year when revenues fell and we had to cut $1 million out of the budget, and a lot of cities did do that," he said. "And there have been no furlough days or lay-offs in Rock Island for AFSCME. So I think we've treated this group pretty well.
"If the public were to see the value we provide for the salaries, the pension benefits, and the health insurance benefits the employees in these units receive, Ithink they would conclude we treat these employees pretty well."
Already this year, the city has signed new labor agreements with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Command, which represents police sergeants, lieutenants and captains, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), which represents all the city's firefighters, including command officers.
The FOP Command's new one-year contract includes a general wage increase of 2.5 percent, effective Oct. 4. The salary of the lowest paid command officer, a step A police sergeant with less than five years of service, will go from $51,322 a year to $52,605, according to the contract.
The salary of the highest paid command officer, a step G captain with 30 years of service, will go from $82,330 a year to $84,253. The chief and deputy chief are not union affiliated.
The new one-year agreement with IAFF also includes a 2.5 percent general wage increase, effective July 26, The salary of the lowest paid firefighters, step A with less than five years of service, will go from $42,377 to $43,436 a year.
The salary of the highest paid firefighter, a fire marshal or battalion chief with "high merit" and 30 years of service, will go from $87,439 to $89,483, according to the contract, which also addresses non-economic changes relating to rotation of overtime, promotional weighting and the development of a new policy regarding return to work procedures for a non-work related injury.
AFSCME is asking for similar consideration, but it's not quite that simple, Mr. Phillips said.
"The contracts are substantially different with each unit because employees are performing different types of work," he said. "The state laws are also dramatically different, and that all affects how we negotiate with the different parties. It's unrealistic to expect the provisions for one contract to the same for each of the six bargaining units."
AFSCME members are nonetheless fed-up.
"They seem to hold us to a lower standard, but we're asking for nothing more than equality among all city employees," said Mr. Hitchcock, who is an equipment operator with public works. "We're not the highly visible police officers, firefighters or paramedics, but we are very important.
"It's not so much about the money any more. My members are tired of being treated differently. It's a fairness issue more than anything else."
AFSCME Local 988 Chapter A's latest contract, which expired March 21, was negotiated in 2007. The salary of the lowest paid employee in that contract, an auto mechanic with less than 5 years seniority, was set at $28,872, effective March 23, 2009. The salary of the highest paid employee in the contract, a lead auto mechanic, lead electrician or maintenance crew leader with 30 years service, is $64,943.
AFSCME Local 988 Chapter B's last contract covered the same time period. The salary of the lowest paid employee in that contract, a step A office assistant, was set at $28,838, effective March 23, 2009. The salary of the highest paid employee in the contract, which includes eight diffrent "high merit" positions, is $67,073.
Union contracts can be viewed online at www.rigov.org/citydepartments/personnel/personnel.html.