By Sue Botos
After deferring wage increases for two years, City Council has approved a 1.5-percent pay increase to workers at the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), retroactive to January.
During discussion at previous council meetings, ordinance sponsor John Shepherd noted that the measure authorizes an amendment to the collective bargaining agreement with the Rocky River Wastewater Employee’s Association, which has been extended without an increase for the last two years. The amendment represents a contract reopener and is effective for one year, retroactive to January.
Shepherd said the increase was approved by the WWTP management committee, which is composed of representatives from the four cities utilizing the facility, Rocky River, Fairview Park, Bay Village and Westlake. He noted that it was unanimously supported by the mayors of the four communities.
WWTP Superintendent Jeff Harrington explained that in 2011, treatment plant workers agreed to freeze wages, as did the collective bargaining units representing city police, fire and service workers, each of which deferred a 2.5-percent raise. Harrington said that the last time WWTP employees received a 2.5-percent increase was in 2010.
The percentage translates to hourly wages of $20.11 to $25.30 for operators and maintenance mechanics and $22.86 to $26.29 for lab techs, maintenance foremen and electricians. Attendants, clerks and assistant lab techs will make $17.91 to $20.60.
In 2012, WWTP employees and firefighters agreed to continue the salary deferment. Earlier this year, firefighters were granted a 2.5-percent raise.
Shepherd had stated at a previous meeting that the agreement with the WWTP workers took longer due to negotiations between the other cities and their service department employees.
“This year during the second contract reopening, we negotiated the 1.5 percent,” Harrington stated. He noted that the increase puts the workers’ wages in line with comparable facilities in Lakewood and North Olmsted. The cost of the increase will be distributed among the four WWTP cities based on usage. Currently, those numbers are Bay Village, 16.8 percent; Fairview Park, 17.8 percent; Rocky River, 25.4 percent; and Westlake, 40 percent.
Harrington stated that the combination of a leaner staff, now numbering 17, down from a high of 20 in 2000, and the recent conversion to 12-hour shifts, has made the plant more efficient. “We’re doing the same amount of work with less people,” he added, justifying the wage increase.
He added that a lot of “cross training and cross working” takes place, with workers often multitasking while on duty. The conversion to 12-hour work shifts from the traditional 8-hour work days had also added up to more efficiency. “When we have an absence or a vacation, we have no problem accommodating the situation,” he said.
The new shift arrangement also gives supervisors the chance to see all eight plant operators in action. Harrington said that now each four-person team rotates from days to nights every three months.