OCEAN CITY – On Monday night, the Mayor and City Council came before a room crowded with members of Ocean City’s two unions to sign and ratify the long awaited collective bargaining agreements, which feature a series of salary increases for employees after going years without.
City Manager David Recor first introduced the resolution to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4269 as well as lead negotiator John Gilman of Miles & Stockbridge P.C.
“I want to acknowledge the municipal employees who assisted in the negotiations, and commend you for having wonderful employees who are very willing to help and go above and beyond in effort and time spent assisting me … and also commend the leadership of the respective departments of police and fire, and that they have a command of what they are doing on a daily basis, as well as their employees best interest,” Gilman said. “I am pleased to report to that the town and the IAFF union has agreed to a collective bargaining agreement that provides the city and union labor peace for three years starting July 1, 2013 running through June 30, 2016.”
Gilman added the agreement addresses several terms and conditions of employment and provides the town some cost savings moving forward, as well as preserving wages, benefits, healthcare and retirement coverage for the union membership.
“Although I support both the police and fire fighters, I cannot support this contract tonight,” Councilman Brent Ashley said.
Ashley explained he and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, who was absent, had requested final total costs of the union contracts and he had not received a summary until immediately prior to the meeting.
“Now I am being asked to vote on a union contract without sufficient time to review the information and perform my due diligence,” he said as he made a motion to postpone the approval of the union contracts. “I was not part of the negotiation team so this cost summary is new information to me and the public. It is my understanding that some employees will see a 20-percent increase in their salaries … the council has fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to spend their money wisely.”
Recor responded that Ashley had not received any information that evening that he hadn’t seen before in Mayor and City Council closed sessions
“Not in the same format but we have seen the same numbers on a different sheet before,” Council President Lloyd Martin said siding with Recor. “As we went forward with the negotiations, we brought back everything to the full Mayor and City Council before we made any decisions on this contract.”
Ashley’s motion to postpone the vote died to a lack of a second.
“What a surprise,” Ashley said.
Council Secretary Mary Knight made a motion to approve the resolution ratifying the collective bargaining agreement with the career firefighters and paramedics and Councilman Dennis Dare seconded. The council voted 5-1, with Ashley opposed and Pillas absent to approve the resolution.
“Prior to the negotiating team entering into the negotiations, we were given parameters in which we needed to operate, and we needed to stay within those parameters, and we felt obligated to do so,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “We came back to the council on several occasions and reported where we were with the negotiations. I can tell you our council said that they were very productive, and they were, but I am not going to tell you they weren’t difficult, and I am not going to tell you they weren’t adversarial at times because that is what negotiations are about.”
Meehan explained certain aspects of the IAFF agreement in detail, such as the agreed upon pay increases that the union did not receive in 2009’s contact.
“They have forgone step and COLAs [cost of living adjustments] that were actually in their contracts, and they did that to benefit all the citizens and the entire city during the situation we were in … it was a difficult contract, and it was difficult negotiations, and we wanted to go back and see if we could fix some of the things we weren’t able to do in previous years,” Meehan said.
According to the contract, the new wage table will go in effect for the IAFF on June 30. The contract spells out a series of three-year salary increases the union employees receive.
The contract reads, “… each Employee on payroll as of June 30, also known as Incumbent Employees, shall be advanced one Step more in Grade beyond the Step that the Employee occupied as of that time,” the contract reads. “On January 1, 2014, each Incumbent Employee shall be advanced one Step more in Grade beyond the Step that the Employee occupied at that time. On July 1, 2015, each Employee shall be advanced one Step more in Grade beyond the Step that the Employee occupied at that time.”
Additionally, the contract reads, “The Wage Rate Table shall be adjusted as of October 1 of each year of the contract term to reflect the same Cost of Living Adjustment, bonus or other wage increase, not including a step or anniversary increase, adopted by the Mayor and City Council, generally, for the City’s employees who are not covered by collective bargaining for the same period of time.”
Another significant change is the regular work hours of work for all Incumbent Employees in the Fire/EMS Division shall be the current 24/72 schedule and the pay period for computation for overtime shall be seven days. “The employer shall pay premium overtime for hours worked in excess of 45 hours in a 7-day pay period,” it reads.
Meehan outlined what the new contract will mean as far as benefits.
“They retained the define contribution plan for new hires … we also reduced the maximum amount of vacation new employees can have over the course of their career from five weeks to four weeks. We also implemented drug testing … in this contract there is no medical benefits for retirees in the IAFF,” the mayor furthered. “There are an awful lot of things in this contract that is good for all the citizens in Ocean City, especially the fact that we can stabilize our work force and provide them with a salary and benefits that are comparable with other areas. They have earned this and I think they have been very patient. “
IAFF Local 4269 President Michael Maykrantz took the time to thank the taxpayers, visitors, and elected officials of Ocean City.
“We have a fair agreement that will meet the needs of our members, the community, the elected politicians, and to the people that pay taxes we really do appreciate it,” he said. “We know when you pay that tax bill every year that is a tough thing to do but if you ever have to use our services you will see your investment comes back to you in many ways. We take our jobs seriously, we really take a lot of pride in doing it and we really believe in what we do.”
The city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 10, which represents members of the Ocean City Police Department, was also ratified.
“This agreement provides advancements for the union members in regards to their wages and other terms and conditions of their employment, specifically their new provisions that address pension and retirement, healthcare coverage and other areas of the departments operations, such as specialty pay for speaking other languages,” Gilman said.
Councilman Doug Cymek made a motion to approve the resolution ratifying the collective bargaining agreement with the FOP and was seconded by Knight. The council voted 5-1 with Ashley opposed and Pillas absent to approve.
Meehan characterized the negotiations leading up to Monday’s ratification as “again difficult”, but reported being satisfied with the finalized document.
“There are a lot of good things in this agreement for both parties. Our police department they did forgo their steps and COLAs in 2009 and subsequent years, and they did it to support the citizens of this community during some very difficult times,” Meehan said. “We were able to give some increments and give two steps back to gain them some equity in their positions, and a chance to get some separation between some of those that had been hired over the period of years and there was no salary separation between them. We were able to accomplish that and our payroll this upcoming year will still be $390,000 less than it was in 2009 for the OCPD, and I think that is significant for us to note.”
Meehan said the new contract also “redefined the defined benefit plan for the police department.” He added, “That is an essential tool for them for recruitment and retention but we did redefine it. That was something we had every intention of doing a couple years ago but did not have the opportunity. That’s going to benefit our department. There was a lot of discussion, it wasn’t exactly what the FOP was looking for but I think they agreed after the way we presented it that was the best way to move forward and be able to continue to offer that particular plan at a reduced cost to our taxpayers, and I think even more beneficial to the department and our community in the long run.”
A similar outline of pay increases to the IAFF was agreed upon by the FOP.
Effective July 1, 2013, the city, “shall pay Employees a FY14 anniversary increment. This anniversary increment will cause Employees who are eligible to progress on the Wage Scale set forth in Appendix IV to advance 1 step from the Employee’s step position on June 30, 2013,” according to the contract.
Then on Jan. 1, 2014, the contract stipulates, “the Employer shall pay Employees employed on June 30, 2010, and who were eligible for and did not receive a step increment in FY10, the FY10 anniversary increment that has not been paid. This increment will cause Employees who are eligible to progress on the Wage Scale set forth in Appendix IV and who are eligible to receive this increment to advance 1 step from the Employee’s step position on December 31, 2013.” Similar language spells out another “anniversary” step increase in year 2015.
Similar raises are outlined for other “anniversary” employees in the contract, which also commits the city to maintain the current health insurance benefit plan for existing employees and new hires.
“When we set out on this endeavor, really all we wanted to do is reach a mutual agreement between all of us that we thought benefited all of the stakeholders in this. The city, our management, our membership, taxpayers, the visitors and everyone that is involved in this,” FOP Lodge 10 President Shawn Jones said. “I think at the end of the day in the spirit of compromise we were able to do that, and do that well … it validated the fact that this process works here in Ocean City, and it can work here in Ocean City, and it will continue to work here in Ocean City through the years. That’s all we want and that all we are shooting for and we are continuing to accomplish that.”