The police and fire dispatchers, who have been without a contract for four years, took their case to the city council on Tuesday night arguing the administration has allowed contract negotiations to stall.
David Baumann, vice president of Teamsters, Local 125, blamed the city for stalling. He attended the meeting with a contingent of his members to directly appeal to the governing body to intervene to settle the contract.
“They don’t budge for nothing. They refuse everything we offer,” said Tara Davis, who has been a police dispatcher for the past 20 years, of the city. She said there was a mediation session two weeks ago between the city and the union that went nowhere.
The union was offered a tentative six-year labor contract in February, said both union and city officials. But that contract was unanimously rejected by union members, said Baumann.
“No one believed it was a fair offer,” said Davis.
The union represents 52 employees in police and fire. All of them have been going without a pay raise for the past four years, said union officials.
“It’s virtually impossible for us to support and raise our families in the city on current salaries we receive,” said Davis. She said the city’s salaries are “substandard and below average” compared to other surrounding municipalities.
“What’s the situation?” asked Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, to administration officials, who at first demurred in responding to the union members.
“There was in fact a contract on the table. It proposed increases they were not happy with,” said the city’s chief attorney Domenick Stampone. “To say there were not increases is not true. So, we’re stuck right now.”
Baumann said the union won an arbitration award that allows employees to receive step increases. However, that was mixed in with the contract negotiations. From 2014 to present, the city had to pay $800 step increases to union members, but through negotiations it offered to pay just $200 per step in retroactive.
Davis said new employees being hired by the city earn same or more than dispatchers who have been working for the city for a decade or more.
The union is now looking to separate the arbitration award and the labor contract. Baumann said the union has to take the costly step of filing in court to confirm the arbitration award.
Council members sympathized with the union members.
“It’s disappointing. These people work hard. The lives of our community is in their hands. They are the 911 receptionists you call when your life is on the line,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. “For them to not have a raise in this long period a time is a problem.”
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, said the city needs to take prompt actions to resolve the contract impasse. The city has settled majority of the labor contracts with its different unions over the past few years.
Some of the union officials said Steve Glickman, the city’s labor counsel, has rejected all their offers in contract talks.
“That entire ordeal with Mr. Glickman has to be reevaluated,” said Jackson. He made a personal appeal to the mayor to take a look at the stalled contract talks and reach a resolution that’s acceptable to both sides.
“I urge you to do right by those people,” said Jackson to the mayor. Williams-Warren said she has spoke to Glickman and union officials in the past, but will speak to the city’s labor counsel again.