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City worker contracts may be ready by Christmas

September 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman told the City Council on Friday he thinks the city could finalize contracts with the four employee groups representing 308 of the City of Hagerstown's 446 workers by Christmas.

All four union groups have been without new contracts since July and two of them have been without a new contract since July 2001. The city abides by the terms of an existing contract until a new one is agreed upon.

Zimmerman said he will return to the council within the next month with proposals that could lead to contracts with the International Association of the Fire Fighters, which represents city firefighters, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents Light Department employees.

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At a later time, he will present information that could result in contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council, which represents police officers and employees from the public works, water and water pollution control departments, Zimmerman said.

The current budget includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for all workers. Union workers have not received that increase due to the lack of a contract.

Zimmerman made the comments during a budget retreat, which was attended by a few labor employees.

After the meeting, Hagerstown City Police Officer Wayne Hose, president of the police employees union, said he was pleased to hear Zimmerman's comments and hopes the contract issues can be resolved soon.

Hose was one of about 70 union members who protested Tuesday outside Hagerstown City Hall with the stated intention of drawing attention to worker morale problems and union negotiations. Many of the protesters, some of whom were city workers, attended Tuesday's council meeting.

At Tuesday's meeting, council members invited union workers to attend the budget retreat Friday to get a better sense of the city's financial picture. The city subsequently changed the location of the retreat from the Hagerstown Regional Airport conference room to council chambers to accommodate a larger audience.

During the retreat, Hagerstown Finance Director Alfred Martin told the council the city is facing an estimated $1 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2003, which begins July 1. The escalating cost of health insurance is one of the major factors causing the shortfall, he said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner suggested the city give presentations to its city employees during work hours so they can better understand the city's financial situation. Zimmerman said he will arrange the presentations.

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