HOPF: One-year labor agreements provide labor peace, but little for long-term projections

Posted: Apr. 18, 2014 3:51 pm Updated: Jul. 14, 2014 9:15 am

The good news is that Quincy officials appear close to meeting their goal of wrapping up negotiations on five contracts involving city employees by the start of the next fiscal year on May 1.

The bad news is that they will be at the bargaining table again next year.

The city has a one-year contract ratified with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 822,, and tentative agreements with Firefighters Local 63 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1107. The only contracts remaining are for patrol officers and sergeants with the Quincy Police Department.

However, short-term contracts was not what Mayor Kyle Moore and his administration envisioned when negotiations began.

Moore, who campaigned on long-term fiscal planning, has included five-year projections in his first budget presented to aldermen. Salaries are projected to increase at a rate of 1.8 percent annually over five years and health insurance by 8.5 percent per year. In the proposed spending plan, the city has included a 12 percent hike in insurance premiums for the next fiscal year.

No long-term contracts means there isn't the predictability of costs municipal officials desire. That showed when aldermen were asked to approve the one-year deal that provided a 20-cent per hour general pay raise for the 78 city employees represented by the Machinists union.

Aldermen voted 7-6 in favor of approving the contract, with Moore having to cast a deciding eighth vote for approval. Dissenting aldermen wanted a longer-term contract similar to the three-year deal that was approved last year for dispatchers at the Quincy/Adams County 911 Center.

History shows aldermen like long-term contracts. The expiring three-year deals were approved with no dissenting votes. They replaced one-year contracts negotiated in 2010 when the city was facing a $1.8 million revenue shortfall in the aftermath of the Great Recession and rolled out an early retirement program to reduce spending.

At the start of the current fiscal year last May, that early retirement program that involved 22 employees had saved the city $4.2 million.

The one-year deals now either finalized or on the table get negotiations out of the way for now, but it means both the city and the union will be preparing seek longer-term deals next spring.

And with the Moore administration seeking to end sick-time buyback for non-union employees, a benefit that provides employees compensation after they build up sick days, those negotiations could be more contentious from the unions' perspective.