Union Agrees To Forgo Pay Raise


Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

Thursday July 18, 1991


A union representing city workers has agreed to a one-year contract that provides no pay raises and guarantees no layoffs, shutdowns, furloughs or cutbacks through June 30, 1992.

But the contract, signed yesterday by Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and leaders of Laborers' International Local 1033, says that if any other city union receives a wage increase this year, Local 1033 is entitled to get the same increase or it can terminate the contract and reopen negotiations.

The city is in negotiations with the police union, whose contract expired June 30. It has not yet begun formal talks with the teachers union, whose contract expires Aug. 31.

The contract with Local 1033 comes as the City Council is pressing Cianci to obtain concessions from unions that will bring long-term savings.

The 1991-92 city budget contains no money for pay raises and includes a $625,000 revenue item called "union cooperation," representing what Cianci is hoping to get back from the firefighters union, whose contract gives members a 4 percent raise this year.

"I think an example has been set," Cianci said moments before signing the contract at a news conference in his office. "Frankly, I don't know where we would have gotten the money for a wage increase."

Arthur E. Coia, the union's general secretary treasurer emeritus, said he was pleased with the guarantee against layoffs, shutdowns, furloughs and cutbacks - a sentiment echoed by many union members when they found out about the agreement as they were leaving work yesterday afternoon.

"Hey, as long as you've got a job," said Kathy Murphy, an appraiser in the assessor's office. "Half a cake is better than none."

Workers had expected to get no raise and seemed relieved that there are no cuts, particularly because about 600 state workers have been laid off this year and most state unions took a 10 percent pay cut for the fiscal year that began July 1.

"It sounds good to me," said another worker who asked not to be named. "We can go without (a raise) for one year. I'd expect one next year if the economy is better. If not, you just got to go along."

The contract covers about 800 workers in departments such as public works, planning, buildings and administration. Salaries for white-collar workers range from $16,031 per year for a first-year clerk to $46,711 per year for the chief radio engineer. Salaries for blue-collar workers range from $9.85 per hour for custodians to $16.38 per hour for supervisors.

Although the contract provides no salary increase, many workers will earn more money because the contract establishes five pay levels, or steps, for most jobs and workers jump one step for every year they complete. In addition, workers receive longevity pay ranging from 5 percent of their annual salary for those who have been with the city between 5 and 10 years and 8 percent for those with 20 years of service or more.

Cianci said he did hot seek to lay off workers because he wants to maintain city services and because he felt that after the city paid for unemployment benefits and legal fees, there would be little savings.

While Cianci had said in recent weeks he was unlikely to get any major concession other than persuading the unions to forgo a pay increase, he also had said he hoped for minor changes, such as withholding retirement health benefits from newly hired workers. The contract signed yesterday maintains Blue Cross coverage for all retirees.

"We had to make a decision whether or not to risk going to arbitration," Cianci said. "Frankly, the union was prepared to give in on wages but not on health."

The new contract adds a provision that says the city and the state Public Employees' Health Services Fund will jointly develop an employee health program aimed at cutting health-care costs.

In addition to medical and dental coverage, the contract contains the following other benefits:

* An extra 25 cents per hour for employees who start work before 7 a.m. or after 11:30 a.m.

* Thirteen paid holidays a year, plus Election Day on even-numbered years.

* A retirement bonus equivalent to one-quarter of an employee's unused sick days accumulated since January 1986, to a maximum of 135 days.

* A contribution of about $425,000 a year by the city to a union legal fund.

Contents copyright 1982 to 1998 by The Providence Journal Co.

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