Contracts for city workers come with a cost

Just days after the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) ratified terms of a collective bargaining agreement, the Rockford City Council made the contracts official Nov. 13. A similar deal was struck for non-union employees. Affected AFSCME and non-union workers account for about 700 city jobs.

The workers, who have been without a contract since the end of 2005, approved the agreement, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2006. Because the contract includes wage increases, employees may soon be getting checks for back pay. They’re also going to be seeing much higher health care costs.

As the increase is phased in over three years, workers’ current out-of-pocket expenses of 5 percent will rise to an estimated 20 percent.

The city council briefly went into closed session before returning with a nearly unanimous vote to approve the agreement. Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) stood alone against the AFSCME and non-union agreements.

McNeely, who left the closed session meeting early, felt administrators used unfair tactics in reaching the agreement.

“I really wish the administration would have come through with something that was more agreeable overall, not just for one union, but for all the unions,” McNeely said after the vote. “I’m certainly concerned about the group that’s under Human Services.”

Head Start employees received only a two-year contract, while the other unions got four-year deals.

Morrissey said the plan will improve the delivery of health services at a cost that will not compromise the city’s current level of service. The benefits plan also comes with a new life insurance option.

The contracts were approved by the Rockford City Council on the eve of arbitration with city firefighters. City officials are hoping the contract settlement with city workers will be considered by the arbitrator. Arbitration on the police union contract is also on the way.

From the Nov. 15-21, 2006, issue

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