A week ago, members of the city's largest labor group—the District Council of Trade Unions—were rallying in Chapman Square and marching on City Hall in hopes of goosing along stalled contract talks. They called those talks imminent, and hoped for a tentative agreement by the end of the week.
It took a few days longer, but an agreement finally emerged this week, helped along by a grueling 22-hour mediation session. The 1,700-worker union announced the deal just after 4 this afternoon.
City officials are now discussing the deal, and Steve Herron, the city's lead negotiator, told me they got some of their biggest demands:
No cost-of-living increase in the first year of the contract, and a deal to lower the minimum increase in the contract's remaining years to 1 percent. Historically, the city has guaranteed at least a 2 percent increase. The city also won some restrictions on when workers will be paid for voluntary overtime. (A quick math calculation shows that one percentage point can save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll costs.)
"We want to recognize and honor that they made that concession," says Herron, "and showed a realistic understanding of the city's financial limitations."
For the union, benefits will remain in place, the day after Thanksgiving will now be a holiday, and rules about when and how the city can farm out work to non-city employees—something that usually lets the city avoid paying union rates—have been tightened.
"In the end, we accomplished a reasonable settlement," Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen said in a statement. "We should feel very good about what we accomplished in these difficult economic times."
Next, union members will need to ratify the deal, which would then go before the council. Keep reading to see the union's summary of contract highlights.
• Workers will see no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in the first year, but will receive a COLA of between 1 and 5 percent in the agreement's second and third years, based on the Portland Consumer Price Index. The employees' benefit package was fully retained.
• There will be no step freezes. Additionally, there is a 3 percent additional step increase for a number of classifications in the third year of the contract that were determined to be underpaid in the market. The additional step will be implemented on the employee's anniversary date, and impacts over 700 members.
• Contracting out language was strengthened. The language now outlines specific requirements the city will use to notify unions of potential outside contracts. This will enable to the union to receive timely and accurate notice of bargaining unit work.
• The day after Thanksgiving was added as a holiday.
• Hour-for-hour compensation for holiday pay. This issue will have a significant impact on members. Prior to this agreement members (especially if they worked 4/10 or 3/12 schedules) had to use two to four hours of vacation or comp time to make them whole for their holiday pay. The annual value to members should range from $500 to $1,200 or more a year, depending on their hourly rate of pay.
• A full DCTU wage survey will be completed in April 2013 for use in the next negotiation session.
• Voluntary overtime will not be not allowed if an employee takes an entire day of sick leave or leave used in lieu of sick leave (exhausted sick leave bank and vacation/comp used or no-pay status) until after time taken is made up during the same FLSA week.
• "Schedule A" premiums applicable to specific classifications based on worked performed as defined, but most are based on specific classifications. This is a complex issue that will be fully explained and posted soon for Local 189 members on the local's website.