As of today, June 30, the Teamsters Local #14 union representing rank-and-file employees with the City of Mesquite is without an official contract. And arbitration on the old contract signed three years ago is still ongoing.
Grant Davis, Vice President and Director of Operations for the union, told the Mesquite Local News last week that a new settlement offer for the old contract was given to city officials “even though we anticipate a very favorable arbitration decision next month (July).”
However, City Attorney Bob Sweetin told the MLN that “it’s the same offer as all the other offers they’ve made to us. The council turned it down June 22. We estimate these kinds of pay raises and retroactive raises will bankrupt the city in four years and result in massive layoffs. Besides, the union still hasn’t filed a grievance like they’re required to do. We want them to file a grievance so we know exactly what we are arguing about. But they haven’t done that.”
Davis estimated two possible scenarios if the arbitrator rules fully in favor of the union. “The first one is if the arbitrator grants steps and retroactive pay back to July 1, 2013. In this scenario the City would owe $749,490 in retro pay including PERS (contributions). The second scenario is if the Arbitrator awards a flat fee and we used a conservative 4.5% increase back to July 1, 2013. In the second scenario the City’s retro responsibility would be $728,929, including PERS.”
Davis said the union’s latest settlement offer is “very similar to our previous proposals to the City but we have gone about this in a different approach.
“One of the significant savings to the City would be based on our proposal that the retro and raises would only go back to July 1, 2014 and the retro would be treated as a “bonus” check and not PERSable [subject to PERS contributions]. In our proposal the City would only have a retro responsibility of $391,591. In our proposal the delay in starting the pay increases till 2014 would save the City approximately an additional $55,000 up to June 30, 2016.”
Sweetin says Davis’ numbers are “their assumptions and numbers based on what they think the arbitrator will rule.”
Sweetin and Davis both said they have finished their presentations to the arbitrator and expect a decision sometime in July on the old contract.
Neither ventured a guess about when talks on a new contract would begin. Sweetin told the MLN the city asked to start on a new contract but the union said no. “We can go for a long time without a new contract,” Sweetin said.
As first reported by the MLN on Jan. 14, the union and city have been in dispute over the rank-and-file employee contract since March 2015 based on a “me too” clause that says “if any other group receives any monetary gain in the negotiated collective bargaining agreements for 2013/14 – 2015/16, other than for a necessary job reclassification, an equal monetary gain shall be given to all employees subject to this Agreement.”
The union contends that the clause kicked in when the city granted step increases for the Teamsters Union #14 Fire & Rescue Department and the Mesquite Police Officers Association union going back to 2013. The city argued back that the step increases did not constitute a wage increase, therefore, were not subject to the “me too” clause.
On the other hand, Sweetin says the union has not made a strong argument as to what ‘me too’ means. “The union defines that ‘as much money as we can get and the city can afford.’ That’s not a number. They won’t give the city a definition of what exactly what they want or an exact number. Settlement numbers are not ‘me too’ numbers.”
City council granted a 20 percent pay raise to Fire Chief Kash Christopher and a 15 percent pay raise to Deputy Fire Chief Rick Resnick during the annual budget hearings May 11 and 12 saying that their pay was now below some of the firefighters that worked for them based on the previous pay raises. Also, Police Chief Troy Tanner and several other top managers in the police department received 5 percent step increases over five years in 2015.
Davis said those pay raises and the boast by city council that it had reached a balanced budget for fiscal year 2016-17 showed that the city does indeed have the money to grant the rank-and-file employees pay raises.
After long delays, Clark County District Judge Jim Crockett granted a “Motion to Compel Arbitration” requested by Teamsters Union #14 in its dispute with the City over the pay clause in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement for M-1, M-2, and non-supervisory public employees during a hearing held Jan. 26.
Step increases under the two existing contracts with Fire & Rescue and police call for a 4 percent increase for steps 2 through 4 and a 5 percent increase for steps 5 through 8. Employees are eligible for the step 2 increase upon completion of probation. Subsequent step increases come due on the anniversary date of hire annually thereafter. Davis said the starting pay and top-end pay for each position will not change.
“They are asking for more value than the ‘me too’ clause allows,” Sweetin said. “For instance, the value a fire captain brings to the table is far more than a landscaper in Parks and Recreation. You can’t equate the value of the two positions. But the union wants both to have the same value. The city is not against raises and fair pay for all of our employees. But we need to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers also.”
Should the arbitrator rule in favor of the union and grant the step increases to the M-1, M-2 and nonsupervisory employees, the city will not only have to fund the extra monthly pay but it will also be on the hook for Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) contributions that include the increases. Currently that runs at 27.5 percent of each employee’s gross pay per year.