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Ironton City Council passes AFSCME contract

The city’s public works employees are finally locked into a contract after more than a year of negotiations.

Ironton City Council passed an ordinance at its Thursday meeting adopting a contract with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 771. The contract for the approximate 34 AFSCME employees was passed unanimously and as an emergency by the six council members in attendance.

The contract, effective April 15 to April 14, 2014, gives a 6 percent wage increase to the employees as well as increases those employees’ retirement pickup to 7.5 percent.

According to the city’s finance department, the city stands to save about $107,000 on retirement contributions, now only having to pay 2.5 percent. The city would pay about $82,000 more in salaries and payroll tax contribution.

The new contract also increases the employees’ meal allowance from $6 to $7. This amount is paid to an employee for each four-hour period of overtime after the regularly scheduled eight hours of work.

“I’m glad we could come to an agreement to end this year’s contract, which has been open for over a year now,” said Mayor Rich Blankenship. “It’s always good to come to an agreement. We can move forward from this point and I believe both sides were give and take at the end of this, and it is something to build upon for the future.”

The city had been in negotiations with the AFSCME union since January 2012 and a reduction in the city’s workforce — one each from the street department, sanitation, wastewater, income tax and water distribution, and five from the police/dispatching department — slowed the progress on the contract talks.

The crux of the issue was budget constraints implemented by city council that required all city employees to begin paying 7.5 percent of their retirement pickup.

Rather than take the increase, AFSCME, as well as the Fraternal Order of Police union, laid off employees to reflect a 7.5 percent cut from their budgets. AFSCME and police union employees currently do not pay anything towards their retirement pickup, with the city covering the entire 10 percent as well as the standard 14 percent employer share.

In 2012 the firefighters union agreed to pay 3 percent of their retirement and made cuts to each firefighter’s uniform and food allowance to make up the difference.

City council approved fire and police contracts in mid-April, which both included a 6 percent wage increase and took retirement pickups to 7.5 percent.

The police contract will cost the city about $36,000 additional for wage and payroll tax contributions but save about $46,000 in retirement costs. For fire, the city stands to save an additional $31,000 for the increase in retirement pickup. With the 6 percent wage increase, the city will pay an additional $40,000 in salaries and payroll tax contribution.

The city’s 2013 operating budget appropriated funds to bring back several of the positions that were laid off last year, including three police officers, one firefighter and one income tax clerk.

Blankenship said there is one AFSCME position in the water distribution that could be recalled but is unsure when or if that position will be filled.

“At this point I want to wait until we can monitor the funds and make that decision at the appropriate time,” Blankenship.