City News

For 600 city workers, pay raise will have to wait a couple more weeks

A new contract between the city of Salem and 600 employees will have to wait another day due to a last-minute cancellation.

The Salem City Council was scheduled to ratify on Monday night the new labor agreement with Local 2067 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The two have been working since March to strike a deal governing pay and other issues covering 640 city employees.

On Monday, however, the union called to halt the process. Union representatives said they balked because of a one-page document they said they had not seen before.

“We’d like it to be on the council agenda tonight, we think the members deserve to have their contracts ratified,” said Kim Harman, a union representative. “The city’s ratification is the last step, but they can’t do that if it’s not presented to them accurately.”

The page in question is a pay schedule for part-time exempt employees and it lists their hourly pay as less than their full-time counterparts. Harman estimated the provision would cover only a handful of workers, but she said the union wasn’t sure if it was accurate.

“When we saw the document, it included this extra page for part-time exempt employees and it proposes to pay them less. Our last contract did not include this pay scale,” she said. “We’re not sure if the document is accurate and we can’t ask city council to ratify a document that we suspect may not be accurate.”

Mina Hanssen, the city’s director of human resources, said the document has been readily available and was part of the last contract.

“It’s not a surprise document,” Hanssen said, noting that the document is posted on the city’s website, alongside other documents relating to its union contracts. “We had taken the (cost-of-living adjustments) and applied it to this spreadsheet and attached it for council. They claim they had not seen it.”

A vote from Salem City Council on Monday night would have been the final step to a contract. Union members voted last weekend to ratify it.

Harman said negotiations have centered mainly on benefits packages, while both sides have agreed on cost-of-living wage increases. Most union workers stand to see a 2.25-percent wage increase for the first year. That would also include retroactive pay from when the current contract expired June 30.

According to Hanssen, the council may see the contract Oct. 22.

“It’s not as if the agreement is withdrawn. The vote is delayed,” she said. “We got into the 11th hour and I was just not comfortable moving onto something where there was a disagreement.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-357-3207, [email protected] or @TroyWB.