Arbitrator orders city employee pay raises

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A federal mediator ordered that “supervisors and non-supervisors be compensated an equitable and fair amount of additional pay equal to the amount of money received by police officers and firefighters between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2016” in a ruling between the City of Mesquite and Teamsters Local 14.

The ruling issued Aug. 10 culminates months of negotiations between the union and city that began in March 2015 after the Mesquite Police Officers Association union settled with the city in December 2014 and Teamsters #14 contract for Fire & Rescue was signed with the city in February 2015.

Police officers began receiving step increases retroactive to July 1, 2014 while Fire & Rescue employees also received step increases retroactive to July 1, 2013.

Teamsters Local #14 representing rank-and-file city employees say those increases kicked in a

“me too” clause in the contract 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.”

City Attorney Bob Sweetin with city council approval argued back that the step increases did not constitute a wage increase, therefore, were not subject to the “me too” clause.

Arbitrator Byron Berry apparently agreed with the union saying in his ruling “It is the clear intention of this decision to make sure that any and all financial raises given to the police officers and firefighters …shall also be given to the members of Teamsters Local 14 for the time period of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016.”

Berry also cited that the aggregate average pay raise police officers received was 16.32 percent while firefighters received an average aggregate increase of 14.22 percent. Grant Davis, Vice President/Director of Operations, Teamsters Local #14, told the Mesquite Local News that should garner a 5 percent pay raise per year for city employees with a three year total of 15 percent retroactive to July 1, 2013.

Should that hold the city is not only on the hook for all the back pay but also for retroactive Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) contributions that runs at 27.5 percent of each employee’s gross pay per year.

Davis previously estimated the city will owe somewhere between $728,929 and $749,490 depending on the exact final numbers of the pay raises.

Sweetin said the arbitrator’s ruling is “something the city already agreed with that the employees deserved some sort of raise. That they wouldn’t has never been at play. Now we have spent a bunch of money for an arbitrator to tell us ‘figure out the amount.’ But the Teamsters have never given us a hard number to work with. The union can’t pinpoint how much money they want. They just say ‘a lot.’ Hopefully, this decision shows the union that we can get to a number that works for everybody.”

Sweetin told the MLN that in all likelihood the city will appeal the arbitrator’s reasoning used in the ruling in district court. “We will have a meeting with the council and mayor to determine what they want to do and where they want to go from here,” Sweetin said. Davis says the contract holds a clause that any arbitration ruling is final and therefore not subject to appeal.

“We will have a meeting with all of the union members to have them vote on this ruling,” Davis said. “We realize there are long-term impacts of this and we know we have to work with the city.”

Davis said the union had previously offered to make the pay raises retroactive to 2014, not 2013, presumably saving the city a year’s worth of raises. He also said the raises for 2014 and 2015 would have been “a bonus” and not classified as salary thus negating the PERS contributions on them.

Sweetin said previous union offers “never cited an absolute number so we never knew exactly what they were offering that we could work from.”

He added that the union rejected a previous offer from the city because it wanted to tie a ‘no layoff’ clause to the agreement. “We couldn’t guarantee no layoffs,” Sweetin said “because there were going to have to be layoffs at the number we offered. No layoffs would have bankrupted the city in three years.”

The second point of contention involved in the arbitration was the city’s contention that the union never filed a formal grievance against the city regarding the pay raise issue. Arbitrator Berry ruled that an email sent by the Teamsters to city officials on March 10, 2015 “met the definition of a grievance” and that anything more formal “would have been futile and the law does not require the doing of a futile act.”

City employees are currently working without a contract since the one under dispute expired June 30. Davis says the union would like to extend the old contract two years and not begin negotiations on a new one just yet. Sweetin says the city is fine without either extending the old contract or negotiating a new one. “We are laser-focused on getting the current issues settled and agreed on,” he added.

“The city has gone to great lengths to come to a conclusion of this. The city has made offers to the union that they were not prepared to decide on. The city has been prepared at every step of the way to actually get a deal done. The union has simply attempted to prolong things to draw as much money as they can out of the city. They need to come to the table and agree on a deal in good faith which is something they haven’t done,” Sweetin said.

 

Comments

  1. The council and sweeten are frickin nuts.
    City and the loser atty sweeten lost, have been draging there feet and now they have to pay up.
    Hey sweeten and city, when you lose at arbitration the other side does not have to bargain-law 101
    You moroons will cost the taxpayers more money with your useless fight on this.
    I hope if you try to fight it , the arbitrator penalizes the city- they deserve it.
    You idiots could pay the ex-city atty to work in park city all summer , but you idiots still try to stiff the hard working city employees who have not had a raise in yrs.
    The administrators and fire and police got the raise – are you guys nuts?
    Now watch , the city will try to get vindictive and lay some employees off- just for spite and ruin familys.
    Just pay them and move on – city screwed up big time.
    And let this be a lesson to the union busting council and sweeten- quit trying to union bust and hurt
    Our hard working city employees,the ones that actually do some good and work in our community.
    Hey sweeten- go back to law school, you must of missed that class on what happens when a arbitrator rules against you-lol

  2. GOOD GOOD Article on these fools.

  3. Fire them all! We could replace all staff in two weeks. Public employees should not be unionized! These are the best paying jobs in Mesquite, but they still want more, more, more!

    • Lol surely you jest about best paying jobs in Mesquite. That title goes to our local Hospital. Maybe instead we should investigate the spending habits of our city officials 😉 You will be surprised were that money goes 😁 Plus you say the union wants more, more, more what about all those years they’ve gone without raises? What about the fact the Union even tried to negotiate a deal that could have saved the city from this mess? Good lesson learned for our city councils times are a changing. Maybe it’s time for the younger more alert citizens of mesquite to run for Council. That way they would understand the concept of emails 😁

      • I highly encourage you to do so. Change is almost always a good thing, especially when it’s younger blood. But that’s doesn’t help clear up today’s mess. That will have to be decided by the current board, who the citizen’s did elect.

  4. Lucky Jack Aubrey says:

    This is squarely on the City Council. They knew that they had asked the Teamsters to remain flat on wages and promised Teamsters that if any other bargaining unit received raises, that Teamsters would get the same. They then turned around and gave huge raises to police and firefighters knowing what their obligation to Teamsters would be. Giving police and firefighters those raises was the height of financial irresponsibility if the City really could not afford to give the same to Teamsters.

    What responsible adults would do now is to sit down with all of the bargaining units, police, fire and Teamsters, and look at whether there needs to be a freeze on step increases for the next year. But if the City believes that he can continue to give annual 4-5% step increases to policeman and firefighters, and not give the same to Teamsters, then the City Council are still suffering from the same stupidity/arrogance that got them into this situation.

    .

  5. Arbitrator says:

    Lucky jack -you are a 100% correct!
    What is even more disturbingvis where is the mayor in all of this?
    If he is telling the city atty to keep trying to bust the union and keep this money
    Wasting futile attempt going, i guess i voted for the wrong guy.
    To keep fighting this losing battle and waste more of our taxpayer monies is crazy.
    City lost,brought it on themselves ,now pay our hard working city workers and there families!
    It appears this city atty either does not know what he is doing,or the council and or mayor are
    Directing him to keep going on this suicide mission which will only cost us taxpayers more money.
    2 words- “INEPT MANAGEMENT”

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