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Unions agree to concessions

UnionsContractsGovernmentCompensation and BenefitsPublic OfficialsPublic Employees

CITY HALL — Concessions agreed to by the unions that cover firefighters and most managers should save the city $1.5 million, officials say, but negotiations remain ongoing with the largest employee union.

The Glendale City Employees Assn., which covers 1,000 of the 1,700 salaried rank-and-file employees, has been negotiating without a contract since July as officials try to secure concessions from it and the police union that would save the city millions.

So far, the City Council has approved a one-year contract with the Glendale Management Assn. that includes a higher employee contribution for health-care and pension plans, in addition to a two-tiered retirement system with reduced benefits for new hires.

City officials project the contract — combined with similar concessions agreed to by the Glendale Firefighters Assn. and city executives — will bring savings to about $1.5 million this fiscal year, or half of the $3 million in benefit concessions factored into the budget.

But so far, months of closed-session negotiations between city officials and the general employees union's representatives team have been unsuccessful.

"There was some movement among the parties, but we are still not getting to where we need to," said City Manager Jim Starbird. "We are continuing to talk, but progress is slow."

Two months into the current fiscal year, Starbird acknowledged that the city could be forced to declare an impasse with the Glendale City Employees Assn.

"It's obvious time is running out, and we have to begin to see that we are going to reach agreement or not reach agreement, which means pursue the impasse resolution process," he said.

Impasse has not been declared with a Glendale employee union since the 1990s, officials said.

"The city does not have much experience in negotiations dealing with impasse," said Human Resources Director Matt Doyle.

And because the city's municipal code does not spell out a process for handling impasse, both groups would have to return to the table even if an impasse is declared, Starbird said.

"If we reach impasse, and I'm hopeful that we won't, then we will have to talk about what both sides would want to see for trying to resolve it," he said.

City officials are also in protracted talks with the Glendale Police Officers' Assn., which is in the last year of a four-year contract.

The police union has taken the City Council to task for refusing to accept a proposal that included giving back scheduled raises and increasing employee pension contributions, a deal union representatives said would save the city about $4 million over several years.

At the time, Starbird said the proposal did not go far enough. Instead, a scheduled 5% pay raise went into effect for all police officers last month, costing the city about $2.3 million this year, officials said.

Even if additional concessions do not come through, Starbird said the budget would likely remain balanced thanks to the city's hiring freeze for vacant positions.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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