City, unions reach new contract agreementThe city of Red Wing reached new two-year contract agreements Monday with four of its eight employee union groups.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
The city of Red Wing reached new two-year contract agreements Monday with four of its eight employee union groups.
The deals will cover Public Works, clerical and police clerical employees. Under the two-year contracts, wages will be held flat in 2011 and rise 2 percent in 2012.
"We thought it was a great deal. It was more than we had expected," said Rose Hanson, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 737.
There is an offset to the wage increase in 2012, however, Hanson noted. While wages will go up 2 percent in 2012 under the contracts, workers will contribute 2 percent more to their healthcare premiums.
These same union groups a year ago offered to accept a zero percent wage increase for 2010, under a one-year contract. Hanson said it hasn't been easy for public employees to see their wages stagnate while the cost of living has risen.
"They have increases in their monthly bills like everyone else has," Hanson said of her fellow public employees.
Red Wing Employee Service Director Roger Seymour said, "We appreciate the willingness of this group to work with the city."
Seymour said declining revenues, in particular a decline in state aid dollars, put pressure on city administration to ask for a wage freeze in 2011.
The city also has left several positions open as employees have retired or gone elsewhere. Currently the city employs 176 people, Seymour said, compared to roughly 200 in 2009. Seymour said the number of employees will likely increase slightly next year to 182.
Meanwhile, the city continues negotiating with its public safety unions.
Seymour said administration would like contracts amongst the different union groups to be as similar as possible.
Red Wing police Sgt. Gene Graves, a union steward with Teamsters Local 320, said once a union group and the city make an agreement with regard to wages the others often follow suit.
Graves said relations between administration and the police sergeants are "pretty amicable."
"Everyone pretty much understands the financial straits we're all in," Graves said.
He noted that for employees who pay into the Public Employees Retirement Association instead of Social Security keeping wages flat will adversely affect their retirement funds.
One of the city's union groups, the patrolmen's union, has sought mediation. A state official from the state Bureau of Mediation Services will work with the two sides to reach a new contract.
Seymour noted that some people have suggested the city should pursue a wage cut for its workers. While the city is scaling back some of its operations for leaner times ahead, Seymour said there is a need to attract and keep talented people.
"You still want quality people to command and manage things," he said.