Annapolis police, blue-collar unions approve contract, 2 percent raise 1-year accord called 'hors d'oeuvres' for '99; slim pension gain made


Members of two Annapolis municipal unions overwhelmingly approved new one-year contracts last night that give 2 percent pay raises to police officers and blue-collar workers.

Both unions will see the increase in their paychecks starting July 1 even though the city council has yet to approve both contracts.

Under their contract, police officers will contribute 1 percent less to their pensions, similar to a provision in the pact that firefighters approved earlier this week. The city will assume the 1 percent.

While city officials were pleased last night that contracts have been reached with all four unions before Monday's deadline, union members weren't quite so happy.

"To put it in an analogy, this was the hors d'oeuvres, and next year we'll be looking for the main course," said Officer John Miller, chief steward for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, which represents 80 of the city's 125 police officers.

"They decided to take what they could get this year," Miller said. "But we made great strides. We showed the mayor's office that (( we were willing to fight for what we wanted."

The police union was the most vocal of the city's four unions in contract negotiations. Members immediately rejected a 1 percent raise that was offered by the city to all four unions in February. When talks broke down, the police union took to the streets and protested at City Hall, advertised their complaints in local newspapers and lobbied council members.

However, it became clear that their demands for a 4 percent raise and improved retirement benefits would not be met when the Professional Firefighters Union and the unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents white-collar workers approved contracts providing 2 percent raises a few weeks ago.

Then yesterday afternoon, the AFSCME unit that represents blue-collar workers ratified its contract by a 39-to-4 vote. So it came as no surprise that about 30 members of the police union, by a show of hands, overwhelmingly accepted the city's offer last night.

"We are pleased that both contracts have been settled and we look forward to putting them to the city council," said city attorney Paul G. Goetzke, who was the city's lead negotiator. "We are anticipating that the council will ratify both agreements. Now, the city and the employees can move on to other things."

But several police officers standing outside the Loews Annapolis Hotel, where the vote was taken, shook their heads no when asked if they were satisfied with the contract.

Officer John Lee, a shop steward, said, "It came down to people deciding they were going to trust the administration enough to work with us toward what we want for next year. We're skeptical though."

Last-minute maneuvering by the police union did garner a written promise yesterday from Mayor Dean L. Johnson that he will create a committee to study pension issues.

The committee is expected to convene in July and report back by December, in time for next year's contract negotiations, which begin in the spring.

For employees, the one-year contracts mean they will see about $600 to $700 more a year in their checks. The pacts also mean the city will spend about $315,000 more next year for health care.

For blue-collar workers, who last reached a contract agreement with the city in 1996 -- that one-year contract was extended a year -- the new pact gives them more job security, said Willie Charles, a public works employee and president of the AFSCME blue-collar unit.

"Everyone's relieved that we've got a pay raise for the first time in four years and, finally, a new contract," Charles said. "But, personally, I feel the city could have given us a lot better than what they did offer.

"Our guys, who are busting their butts like today in the hot sun, deserve more," Charles said. "They're not feeling really happy about it. It's just the best we thought we could get."

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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