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Annapolis

Annapolis City Council approves union contracts, pledges to change up negotiation process

Annapolis City Council ratified contracts for four union bargaining units Monday, but not before expressing frustration with the negotiation process and pledging to make changes.

The move came in the middle of an almost four-hour meeting that also found the council deputizing the mayor’s boat, and appointing a new city manager.

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According to City Code, negotiations with unions representing police officers, firefighters and support staff were to be completed by March. Those bargaining deadlines weren’t met. The city tentatively approved agreements with UFCW Local 400, which represents the police officers, in May. A few weeks later, workers in AFSCME 3162 (clerical and technical employees) and AFSCME 3406 (labor and trade employees) approved their contracts, and on June 6, members of Annapolis Professional Firefighters Local 1926 finally voted to ratify their contract.

“These union agreements did not come to us in a timely manner,” said Ward 7 Alderman Rob Savidge, the only member of the all-Democratic council to vote against ratifying the agreements. “I cannot support this legislation.”

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The long delays meant exact salary figures were not included in the proposed fiscal 2023 budget that Mayor Gavin Buckley submitted to the council in April. Considerable refiguring was necessary, especially to accommodate new pay scales for police officers: Buckley had budgeted for a 14%increase, and they ended up with a 19% raise.

Savidge unsuccessfully pushed for a tax increase to pay for higher-then-budget police salaries. Instead, council members opted to use reserve COVID-relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We still don’t have a way to pay for it,” he said Monday night, reiterating his concerns that when ARPA funding runs out after the fiscal 2024, the city will likely need to raise taxes, cut services or some combination of the two in order to pay the police. “We are setting ourselves up for failure,” he said.

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Ward 8 Alderman Ross Arnett, a frequent budget hawk on the council, cautioned that rejecting the contracts now – when they are scheduled to take effect July 1 – might result in an even worse fiscal outcome and called for changes in the future.

“We need to find a better way to negotiate the contracts,” Arnett said. “I hate that it comes to us at the end as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Elly Tierney applauded the effort that lead to paying police officers a starting salary of $60,000, one of the highest starting wages in the region, which the city hopes will boost recruitment, but she charged the city’s Office of Law with making changes.

“What is in the best interest of the city, as far as a deadline? I don’t know the answer to that.” Tierney said.

Joe Pilat, president of Local 1926, said in a statement that firefighters share council members’ concerns about the lengthy process, and blamed some of the delays on trying to work around the schedules of lawyers on both sides.

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“Local 1926 is also currently working on ways to speed up the process and make it an equitable balance of power during negotiations,” Pilat said.

Other business

The council finalized the appointment of Michael Mallinoff as the new city manager. Mallinoff will replace current City Manager David Jarrell, who after more than two years in the city’s top nonelected position has decided to step down and return to serving as the city’s director of public works, a position he previously held for a decade.


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