City Hall

17 City Unions Agree to Reopen Contracts

By Erica C. Barnett October 11, 2010

Seventeen of the 19 city unions that make up the Coalition of City Unions, representing about 4,400 city employees have agreed to reopen their contracts with the city, accepting a reduced cost-of-living increase for the next three years. Instead of a guaranteed two-percent annual increase, the unions' annual COLAs will be linked until 2013 to the Consumer Price Index, which translates to a 2011 raise of 0.6 percent.

The two unions that voted against the lower COLAs were the machinists' union and the police dispatchers' guild; those two unions represent about 180 employees.

Flanked by union representatives and five members of the City Council outside his office this afternoon, McGinn said the budget he submitted to the council assumed that all 19 Coalition unions would agree to reduce their cost-of-living adjustments. Had the unions not agreed, he said, "we would have had to come back with an additional round of cuts [and] further reductions in services."

Because two of the 19 Coalition unions didn't agree to lower COLAs, he said, "that probably means [the budget is] out of balance already." That prompted council member Sally Clark, standing to McGinn's left, to crack, "You submitted a budget that's out of balance"---a reference to the fact that McGinn has claimed, to council members' endless irritation, that the councilĀ  passed an unbalanced budget for 2010.

Asked whether the unions had considered accepting a wage freeze, instead of a reduced COLA, McGinn said, "Everything was discussed, and we mutually agreed that the CPI was fair."

McGinn's budget faces additional hurdles. First, it relies heavily on new fees and taxes that many city council members, including some who stood beside him at today's press conference, oppose. McGinn's budget would increase the commercial parking tax an additional five percent; raise utility rates; and hike parking rates as high as $4 an hour downtown.

In response to my question about whether he'd reached an agreement with the council about his controversial revenue proposals, McGinn said, "This is what a budget process is for and I'm not going to presume to speak for them. We've sent down the best budget we can with the information we have. ... Now the council's going to have to do their own balancing. Maybe their values are a little different, or maybe they have the exact same values and they want to express them differently."

However, he couldn't resist adding: "Keeping our streets maintained, public safety, human services---those are core government missions. Providing parking meter rates that are very far below what the private market charges? I don't think that's a core government mission."

McGinn also noted that several ballot initiatives are in play, including liquor privatization and a repeal of the tax on candy, soda, and bottled water, that could take a further cut out of city revenues. In the worst-case scenario, he said, "we might have to find another $4 million" in cuts.
Filed under
Show Comments