The city council approved the much delayed labor contract with the blue-collar public works union on Tuesday night raising the minimum salary of Department of Public Works (DPW) employees to $30,000 by 2018.
Under the agreement which runs from July 1st, 2014 through July 20th, 2019 the minimum salary for public works employees is set at $28,000 for the current fiscal year, $29,000 for the next, and $30,000 by 2018. There’s also a 2-percent annual pay increase for employees, according to the agreement.
Members will receive almost $1.1 million in salary increases during the course of the agreement; of that amount $548,216 is retroactive pay from 2014-2017, according to the city’s calculations.
“Our body wanted their money,” said Michael Rodriguez, president of the union. He said the union has roughly 200 members. He has said the city won a little bit more than the union did in this contract.
“I’m very happy this has finally come to fruition,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, who is the chairwoman of the public works committee.
The city and the union engaged in a battle over the negotiations. The union filed a complaint with the state alleging the city was engaging in unfair labor practices. The state referred the complaint to the city which re-opened talks that allowed for a final agreement.
Public works has three labor unions. Two for supervisors and one for the blue-collar workers. The city late last year settled with the supervisors. The only unit that remained without a contract was the blue-collar unit.
Business administrator Nellie Pou on Wednesday morning said the city has settled with all three unions in the public works department. There are three other units outside of public works – police motor pool, telecommunications, and law department employees – without contracts, she noted.
The sticking point that caused delay was out-of-title pay. Union members temporarily assigned to fill in for higher ranking job titles will either receive $1,500 “pro-rated on a daily basis” or 20-percent of the difference between their salary and that of the higher title whichever is greater. Full out-of-title pay kicks in after 20 days of working in the higher role, according to the contract.
Increasing the minimum pay to $30,000 by 2018 still leaves workers earning a subsistence wage, said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He said the take home pay after taxes will likely be $25,000 even after the increase.
Public works employees are some of the lowest paid employees on municipal payroll.
“If you really wanted to do something meaningful raise their hourly rate up to at least $15 an hour,” said Morris.