Statement Regarding Ongoing Union Negotiations
The City very much values the important work being done by Takoma Park employees and is committed to continuing the collective bargaining process with AFSCME. The COVID-19 pandemic has created hardship for many and caused uncertainty regarding the fiscal climate. The recent rise in inflation is one of the many unforeseeable impacts of the pandemic on our employees and residents alike.
With uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City continues to work to promote a safe work environment for our staff and ensure they are supported, as well as continue to provide services and programs, such as rental and food assistance, to residents who have been most impacted by COVID-19.
Specifically, for City employees, the Council worked with City staff to:
- Provide hazard pay to: Police Patrol Officers, other front-facing officers, and some command staff, Police Dispatch; and Public Works employees in Sanitation, Building Maintenance, Custodial staff, Equipment Maintenance, Right of Way Maintenance, Vegetation Maintenance, and Urban Forest.
- Avoid layoffs, retain and continue to pay staff who were unable to perform their job duties in light of pandemic-related complications.
- Pay administrative leave to those who could not work due to COVID-related program closures.
- Offer a retirement incentive to anyone eligible for retirement in an effort to avoid layoffs.
- Increased the amount of vacation leave employees could carry over into the calendar year 2021, from 240 hours to 300 hours, given the impact of the pandemic on travel/vacation.
We will continue to find ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our employees and the whole community, and the City looks forward to the opportunity to continue the discussions with AFSCME. The City and AFSCME will be continuing mediation soon and the City looks forward to continuing that process.
- The City is roughly halfway through a three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and during the wage negotiations earlier this year under the terms of that CBA, the City offered to increase the pay scale for employees in the AFSCME bargaining unit by 1.8%. The City provided the same percentage adjustment to non-union employees, and Takoma Park’s police union agreed to that same pay adjustment earlier this year.
- The City Code sets out the process for resolving issues if we are unable to reach an agreement during negotiations, which includes mediation. Two mediation sessions with AFSCME and City representatives were held recently in an effort to reach an agreement.
- Regarding ARPA funds, City staff and Council are actively considering how to allocate funds the City received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA federal funds can be targeted to assist the most vulnerable in our community (both short and longer-term), as well as provide hazard pay for front-line workers, replace lost city revenue, and improve water and broadband infrastructure, but cannot be used to reduce taxes, increase salaries, or fund regular ongoing City programs and services.
- Regarding current compensation for City employees:
- For full-time City employees, the lowest salary is $43,340, with health, dental, and vision plans provided with no premium cost to the employee for employee-only coverage.
- The City provides a competitive benefits package beyond paid health insurance premiums for employee coverage, which also includes: a variety of paid leave options, availability to flexible spending accounts, a City match to an optional 457 deferred compensation account, three employee assistance programs, tuition reimbursement, and more.
- The City is also about to conduct a compensation study and will adjust salaries as needed during our next budget discussions in the Spring.