Labor Contract Buffoonery, Round 2


Today we’re taking a short break from the stretch drive of the various political campaigns – but not a whole week of Spring Break, like mayoral challenger Larry Ryles is enjoying – to address a matter that’s on tonight’s City Council COW agenda: the new collective bargaining agreement between the City and Local 150 of the Operating Engineers who represent the Public Works employees.

Yes, the same union that gave Ryles a $1,000 contribution a few weeks ago, in what might be viewed as an “investment” in a hoped-for future.

It was only back on March 11 that we published a post critical of how City Staff managed labor negotiations, contracts, and communications with the City Council concerning them: “Latest Episode Of Labor Contract Buffoonery On Display Tonight”.  We won’t repeat that discussion (which you can read for yourself if so inclined) other than to note some recent developments that continue the City’s clown-car approach to labor matters.

When we wrote that March 11 post, the Council “packet” on the City’s website didn’t include Acting City Manager Shawn Hamilton’s Memorandum containing his “Summary and Analysis Local 150 Tentative Agreement” – nor did the Council, as we understand it.

That Memorandum recounted some details of a May 21, 2012, closed session (“executive session”) to discuss bargaining strategy.  In fairness to Hamilton, he wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of Mayor Dave Schmidt or the Council back then, as his predecessor, Jim Hock, had just been sacked and long-time Deputy City Manager had taken over as ACM with the Council’s expectation that she would stay on until the City had paid off all of Hock’s $120,000+ severance package.

But Hamilton apparently did enough research to discover that the Council had reached a consensus back then “to use other fridge [sic] benefit concerns as bargaining”; and that the Council “wanted to see any wage increases offset with other concessions” – “offset” being the operative word, suggesting that any deal would be revenue-neutral for the City.

So when Hamilton joins Suppan in recommending that the Council pass this new Agreement that he admits results in an expenditure of $75,488 of “net new dollars,” we would hope that recommendation would come with an explanation of why the Agreement was good for Park Ridge’s taxpayers and consistent with the Council’s revenue-neutral mandate.

So much for that hope. 

In his own Agenda Cover Memorandum from March 11, 2013 – which we did address in our March 11 post – City H.R. Director Michael Suppan provided no explanation whatsoever for why he and Hamilton were recommending the Agreement even though it failed to achieve the revenue-neutral status the Council wanted.  Instead, he notes only that “[t]he terms of this agreement are below the authority originally authorized by the Council on May 2012” – an oblique way of saying that, at 2.75% for the first two years, it was under the “3% over the first two years” referenced in Hamiton’s memo as Maller’s “authority”; and even though, in apparent excess of her authority, it includes a 1.75% increase in year 3 that takes the Agreement up to a 4.5% increase over 3 years.

But where’s the “offset” that makes such a wage increase revenue-neutral, gentlemen? And where’s the “potential wage reopener in the third year”?

We aren’t suggesting that $75,488 over 3 years will break the City’s piggy bank.  It won’t.  But when the City is giving away 4.5% increases over 3 years with not even an attempt to tie it to merit or performance, this sounds like just another COLA-based deal that is designed to help ensure the preservation of the employees’ purchasing power against expected inflation rather than to reward and incentivize better performance and productivity. 

Where in the City Code does it say that the City is supposed to ensure the purchasing power of its employees?

Hamilton’s memo makes a point of mentioning that the new Agreement cuts the amount of vacation for new employees from as much as 29 days (at 15 years of service) down to a mere 20 days, a/k/a 4 weeks.  So all 28 current employees will be grandfathered into the current vacation plan until they leave or retire, which means the benefits of that policy might not be felt for awhile – assuming the next contract doesn’t restore the current vacation schedule for all employees.

Do Hamilton and Suppan think that’s a good idea?  Have they done some kind of calculation that convinces them the vacation change will somehow bring about the revenue-neutral “offset” the Council wanted?  Do they think that this new Agreement really is in the best interest of the City’s taxpayers, and why? 

We don’t know, because Hamilton and Suppan aren’t saying.

We realize that answering those questions would require actual “analysis” and judgment rather than just clerical compilations.  Given how cavalierly prior Councils gave away across-the-board raises and benefits, there probably are no benchmarks or “cheat sheets” laying around to help them with that task.

But isn’t that what these guys are getting paid for?

To read or post comments, click on title.

4 comments so far

Apparently the Mayor was so concerned about a renewed focus on enonomic development….”I recognized the need for a renewed focus on Economic Development at the staff level by seeking a new City Manager who had a private sector and finance background”…….he did not consider anything else.

By my count that is three big ones you have identified.

1. The way he worked with TOPR
2. The Fire chief and bidding process
3. Labor contact buffoonery

I know, I know…it was the council that approved him…..baaahhh!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The mechanics of City government really escape you, don’t they?

Our City Manager seems to have deserted to the other side. If Mayor Schmidt wins, his next act needs to be to find a new candidate

EDITOR’S NOTE: Didn’t you learn anything from the Jim Hock goat rodeo? Under Park Ridge’s form of government, the mayor can’t fire the city manager – only the Council can.

Did the union who has boughten Ryles get its way on its public works contract last night? That tells me all I need to know about whose pocket Ryles will be in if he’s elected.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Boughten”?

The Council voted 4 to 1 (Sweeney, DiPietro, Mazzuca and Maloney v. Knight; Smith and Raspanti absent) to approve the contract. Another victory for across-the-board, non-merit based, quasi inflation-indexed raises.

And another endorsement of ACM Hamilton and HR Director Suppan getting paid manager salaries for clerical work.

Is the 75,000 increase included in the budget for this current year and also included in the budget that is currently being debated? If so, can someone please point to the section of the budget where we can find this new 75,000.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Are you saying that whether this is a good or bad deal for the City and its taxpayers should be measured by whether or not it was included in the FY2012-13 budget, or in the FY2013-14 proposed budget?

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