By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted won’t have to worry about any employee negotiations for a while.
With City Council’s Feb. 4 approval of four-year contracts with AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) clerical/technical workers and police dispatchers, all the contracts have been settled. Like the other agreements, the contracts run from 2012 through 2015. Each has a 2.5-percent raise for the workers in the first year and 2 percent in each of the following years.
North Olmsted human resources Director Cheryl Farver said the city is glad to have all the contracts settled for several years.
“We’re delighted to have them taken care of,” she said. “The latest are essentially cookie cutters of the other agreements in terms of pay increases and health care.”
During discussion of the contracts in the Feb. 4 council caucus session, Councilwoman at Large Angela Williamson asked if Gary Johnson, the outside labor negotiator, had been involved in any of the discussions on the last three contracts. Farver said Johnson had not been involved, noting he was only involved in the police contract discussions for the current contracts. Farver, municipal Law Director Michael Gareau Jr., finance Director Carrie Copfer and safety/service Director Scott Thomas handled the bulk of the negotiations, officials said.
Williamson said she was pleased that the directors handled most of the work. She had been one of the council members who raised concerns about the cost of Johnson’s work in previous contract negotiations and how he deals with employees.
The police contract was the first settled by the city, and set the trend for the others in terms of pay raises and restoring of concessions given by workers in 2009, when the city was combating shrinking revenue sources and the effects of the Great Recession.
Farver said one portion of the contracts offers employees a chance to shrink part of their financial contributions to the health insurance premiums by participating in an employee wellness program.
“It helps promote better health and gives them some financial incentives, depending on the participation,” she said.
Tammy Farris, who led the police dispatcher negotiations, said the contracts worked out well.
“There wasn’t too much different in that they were like the other contracts,” she said.
Farris said she liked the wellness option.
“A wellness program is a good thing, and who doesn’t like getting some money back?” she said.
City finance officials said the pay hikes in the contract would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, since fulltime workers will be the ones receiving it. Since the wellness program is new there are no initial estimates, but administration officials believe it will aid employees and the city.
Paul Barker, chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, was pleased the contracts are done.
“The administration and union negotiators worked well together and got them settled,” he said. “It helped get the budget planned and put together, and gives us a couple of pretty good years. It seems fair to everybody.”