New city pay model proposed
City Manager Ed Lavallee floated a performance-based pay proposal this week in the first bargaining session with representatives of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees chapter.
The idea was discussed but there was no formal exchange of contract language.
Lavallee raised the issue of performance pay when he was first interviewed for his job, and early on after he was hired in 2011, not as a reflection of a staffing problem, but more as a best practice for city government and a way to improve staff morale.
Union officials had lots of questions about how it would be implemented, including how to guard against favoritism, and how it would take into consideration people who are out sick or take more time off than others.
The union gave indications it will be an uphill battle for city officials to implement it.
“Before we can agree to that, we need to take a look at several areas, like the grievance process,” said Hector Ramos, of the statewide AFSCME, who is assisting local representatives in bargaining sessions.
“Performance pay evaluations will mean money out of somebody’s pocket. There are so many things to look at.”
One of those is job reclassifications.
Union reps said they want a bigger role in changes to job descriptions and reclassifications. In years past the union typically submitted a list of requests for position reclassifications. The city would approve some, but not all.
When the economy tanked, the city motto became “do more with less.” The result: more employees are working “outside the job classification,” said local ASFCME President Dan Tucci. “People want to be paid for that.”
“I recognize you have been shorthanded,” Ramos said. “People have had to work above their pay grade. Our contract deals with that. Maybe it’s time to change the pay grades.”
One classification-related grievance was filed this week, and two more are under review, Ramos said.
Tucci said the new process, instituted a few years ago when a committee was created, has only one union representative who is usually outvoted.
The union said it would bring back a proposal with greater union involvement for the parties to consider.
AFSCME officials, who requested a three-year contract, submitted a list of monetary items for consideration:
• Increases made to employee contributions for health care be offset by the same increase to base pay.
• Allowing movement on the salary schedule. Existing contract language guarantees a 3.5 percent annual increase, but only if it’s funded by city council. Automatic “step increases” haven’t been funded in five years.
• Those topped out and not eligible for movement on the salary schedule should be granted a $1,500 or similar bonus.
• A cost-of-living adjustment to annual base pay increases, in the 5-to-7 percent range.
The union also requested the city stop taking depositions of witnesses in disciplinary hearings that reach the level of arbitration.
AFSCME is one of four unions representing the majority of city employees.
Usually bargaining talks begin in June, but the union requested an early start to ensure a settlement is considered well before the final budget is approved in September.
The parties will meet again in late February and early March.