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City discusses union contract

October 13, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday preliminarily approved authorizing $13,000 more than expected on a union contract for 148 city employees.

The contract in discussion involved American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1540, which represents workers mostly in the city's Water and Sewer and Public Works departments.

The contract is scheduled for approval at the council's Oct. 26 voting session.

During Tuesday's council work session, the council agreed to let the union maintain its sick leave buy-back program as it was last year, after hearing arguments that union members were underpaid and facing large hikes in health-care costs.

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The sick leave program has been a cost-cutting target of city officials. It allows workers who have a certain amount of unused sick leave to sell back a portion of the time to the city.

The city has sought to reduce the amount of sick leave workers can sell back, although the move has met opposition from the city's collective bargaining units.

James Bestpitch, who was representing the union at Tuesday's meeting, made a proposal that would abide by the city's sick leave requests but increase the union workers' cost-of-living increase by 1 percent more than the city proposed. According to city estimates, that proposal would have cost taxpayers about $111,000 more than currently planned.

After discussing the plan with union members outside the council chambers, Bestpitch made the offer to keep the cost-of-living increase to 2.5 percent above last year's wages, which is the city's preferred amount. But in turn, he requested the city not reduce the union's sick leave program.

The overall projected cost of the one-year contract, which would end June 30, 2005, is about $6.18 million.

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