City, unions reach pacts

SALEM – City council ratified contracts with the four unions representing city workers Wednesday night, approving deals for small wage increases and a health insurance plan that’s expected to cost the city less.

“Since we had reasonable costs in hospitalization, that allowed for us to discuss raises,” Mayor John Berlin said following the special session.

Each three-year contract is retroactive to July 1 and expires June 30, 2017, with health insurance reopeners each year when the city’s health insurance is up for renewal. The contracts cover the police officers, firefighters, service department workers and utilities department workers.

The unions include AFSCME Local 2701 covering the service department, Utilities Workers Union of America AFL/CIO Local 560, Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council and International Association of Firefighters 283.

The terms of the contracts include wage increases of 2.75 percent in the first year, 2 percent in the second year and 2 percent in the third year. In the last contract, there were wage increases but they were offset by increases in what employees had to pay for their pension pickup, so they ended up being a wash.

All four contracts expired June 30, but since the health insurance deal didn’t expire until a month later, they had to wait to see what the health insurance costs were going to be before they could really get started.

Berlin said the proposal from Medical Mutual, who had been the provider the past two years, included a 39 percent increase in cost, so they shopped around for other providers and other options. After comparing the plans, they settled on a 15-month Anthem plan through Paychex Insurance Agency.

Brothers said she had budgeted for a 7 percent increase in cost, but the cost for the new plan is a 12 percent decrease from last year’s cost through Medical Mutual, with most of the premiums less than what was being paid last year for a family plan, employee plus spouse and employee plus children. Plans for employee only will see a slight increase in the premium. Employees pay 11 percent of their premium.

In other areas, Berlin said in both the police and fire contracts, they were able to grandfather increases in longevity pay for new hires. They also instituted step wage increases for new hires, meaning that when a firefighter or police officer gets a promotion, the increase in pay will come in steps instead of all at once.

For the police department, Berlin said they never had a shift differential for second and third shifts. With this contract, a shift differential was added, giving officers working the second or third shifts an additional 10 cents per hour in the first year, then 25 cents in the second year and 40 cents in the third year.

Salem Police Sgt. Brent Slider, president of the local FOP, called the contract negotiations “a very positive experience.”

“I like the fact that we worked together. In years past, it was a battle,” he said, noting how all the unions and the administration all worked together. “I’m real happy and appreciate the city’s efforts.”

For the utilities department, the shift differential was increased from 22 cents per hour to 30 cents per hour.

For service department workers, the contact includes an adder for workers possessing a CDL, with an additional 25 cents per hour for Class A and an additional 15 cents per hour for Class B.

“We cleaned up a lot of the language,” Berlin said.

Brothers and Berlin worked hand-in-hand in preparing the contracts and working with the unions. Brothers said the process went very well.

“We obviously had great cooperation with employees of the city,” she said.