By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Council members Tuesday unanimously approved a two-year contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1619 that will cost the city a budgeted amount of $113,000 in increased salary costs for 2013.
City Human Resources Manager Bob Coons said these employees did not take a pay increase in 2011 or 2012.
The agreement also will increase the employees’ share of medical premiums from 10 percent to 12.5 percent, a move Coons told City Council members will save the city $30,000 this year.
The contract had been negotiated for several months. The earlier contract expired Dec. 31.
Local 1619 represents employees in the city’s Public Works and Utilities, Finance, Parks and Recreation, and Community and Economic Development departments, Coons said.
“I’m so happy that we’ve come to an agreement that works for everyone because these people are the heart and soul of our city,” Mayor Cherie Kidd said at the meeting.
Other changes in the newly approved contract include updates to its anti-discrimination language.
Also, an employee option to cash out unused vacation time on an annual basis was removed, Coons said, though an employee’s ability to cash out unused vacation time if he or she leaves the city’s employ remains.
The amount of unused vacation time an employee can accrue and subsequently cash out if he or she leaves depends on how long the employee has worked for the city, City Manager Dan McKeen said.
“It’s based on their years of service, or longevity,” McKeen said.
Unused vacation time exceeding an employee’s accrual limit cannot be rolled over year-to-year, McKeen explained.
“[Employees] are encouraged to use their vacation time,” McKeen said.
City staff budgeted $68,000 for employee vacation cash-out for 2012, Coons explained, and the Local 1619-represented employees made up about $15,000 of that.
Previously, management staff were allowed to cash out up to 80 hours of unused vacation time per year, while non-management staff could cash out 40 hours annually, Coons said.
McKeen said management staff’s ability to cash out vacation time on a yearly basis was deleted prior to Local 1619 contract discussions.
A 2010 state audit of the city’s finances had called the city’s vacation and sick-leave cash-out policies lax.
Then-Finance Director Yvonne Ziomkowski was fired by then-City Manager Kent Myers for violating city policy on vacation and sick-leave cash-outs.
A state audit the next year found no issues with the cash-out policies after city staff and council members had worked to revise them.
The municipal employees bargaining group comprises the largest segment of the city’s 230 employees, Coons explained.
Other union-represented employees include firefighters and police officers, contract negotiations with which are under way, Coons said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.