City of Tulsa workers union to submit final contract offer
Mar 08, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Tulsa's municipal employees union will submit a final contract offer Friday on behalf of the remaining 708 city workers who have not accepted pay agreements this fiscal year.
The union will forgo its request for pay raises but will ask the city for one-time salary stipends of 4 percent -- up from the city's previous offer of 3 percent stipends -- and for holidays and vacation days to be counted as time worked in overtime calculations.
Michael Rider, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1180, said that is the "final offer" for the union's lowest pay group, which includes crew workers, heavy equipment operators, animal control officers and yard waste collectors.
The remaining 1,012 city workers represented by AFSCME have either already accepted the 3 percent stipend or are 911 workers under a two-year contract. Police and firefighter unions reached deals earlier.
"Keep in mind that this is the lowest-paid group in the city," Rider said. "This is the group that needs (stipends) the most."
The union estimates that those employees earn an average of $18,408 to $23,670 per year, which would put the 4 percent stipends between $736 and $947. The average stipends under the city's offer would range from $552 to $710.
Rider said the group had been pushing for salary raises but that after a frustrating, yearlong negotiation, it now makes more sense to begin negotiating for raises in the next fiscal year.
The city has argued that raises for non-public safety employees this year would complicate position and salary changes that may come from an ongoing independent study of city workers' classifications and compensation.
City Manager Jim Twombly said the city offered the stipends as a way to "bide our time" before the study is finished in April or May, when the next fiscal year's budget will be drafted.
Increasing the 3 percent stipends would likely require finding ways to save money elsewhere, Twombly said.
"I'm not saying we wouldn't go to 4 percent, but there would have to be some negotiations," he said.
The three other pay grades represented by AFSCME -- excluding 911 workers -- agreed to the 3 percent stipends in January only because they concluded that they would never be satisfied with a contract this fiscal year, Rider said.
He said the union's negotiations with the city have been "rough" after the repeal in 2011 of the Oklahoma Municipal Employee Collective Bargaining Act, which governed collective bargaining for non-public safety city employees.
Although Tulsa's ordinances continue to recognize collective bargaining, the city is no longer bound by state law to honor arbitration rulings for non-public safety unions. Unions rely on arbitration to settle contract disputes.
The police and firefighter unions, which negotiated for raises this year, still have state arbitration rights.
"It took away all of the oversight in the way the city had to recognize and work with us," Rider said. "We could certainly tell (the difference) when we went into negotiations."
He said the major difference is that Mayor Dewey Bartlett has not met with the union or sent a representative from his office, which was the practice in past years. The union has instead been negotiating with the city's Legal Department.
Twombly said the Mayor's Office has been in constant contact with the negotiators and that he has personally kept the mayor informed of the proceedings.
"Our negotiating team kept me apprised," he said. "There was really good communication on our side of the table from the mayor down through me to those at the table."
Rider said the city asked the union to email its offer for the remaining pay group. He planned to do so Friday.
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
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