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Hagerstown officials confirm six-month contract extension for city workers

June 15, 2013|By RAYCHEL HARVEY-JONES | Raychel@herald-mail.com
  • City workers came out in force on tuesday to support Union representative in a closed session meeting at city hall.
By Bethany Davidson / HMTV6 producer

Hagerstown officials confirmed this week that the city’s existing contract with hundreds of city workers has been extended for six months.

The current labor contract had been set to expire June 30, which could have left city workers in four unions without agreements that govern their working conditions, salary structure, vacation time and general labor conditions.

“I can confirm that the contract has been extended for six months as a result of the executive session on Tuesday at City Hall,” Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Friday.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner also confirmed the extension by email.

Aleshire was referring to a meeting in which representatives from the Hagerstown Police Department, the Hagerstown Fire Department, the Hagerstown Light Department and the city Division of Public Works gathered at City Hall as representatives from each union asked the mayor and Hagerstown City Council for an extension on their current contract to give them time to clarify the labor agreement.

As the meeting went on behind closed doors Tuesday at City Hall, about 30 city workers lined the halls in support of negotiations to extend their work contracts.

With the extension in hand, the negotiating teams can focus on hammering out new contracts.

“I am happy with the extension that the city has agreed to. It feels good to know that we have this umbrella over us so we can move forward with negotiations,” Hagerstown Firefighter Scott Baire said later in the week.

On Tuesday night, Baire, who was among those gathered at City Hall, detailed some of the issues concerning city workers.

“After a four-year pay freeze, we are not asking for a pay increase,” Baire said. “We are asking the mayor and council to honor the agreement that is currently in place. Many firefighters are working and not benefiting from the step system that allows a pay increase dependent on the number of years of service.”

Jesse Duffey, a city police department detective who also was at City Hall Tuesday, expressed similar concerns for police officers.

“We have not been receiving the correct monetary values for our services, and we would like this contract to now be honored,” Duffey said. “Police officers are leaving the city; the uncertainly of the contracts and the four-year pay freeze (are) causing us to lose officers to other jurisdictions.”

The cost of making steps “whole,” or bringing the salaries of all city workers up to the terms set out in their current contracts, would be $1,273,000, which would be the salaries prior to the pay freezes, according to an email from city officials. For a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, the makeup amount would be $603,000.

Asked whether city workers might receive step increases as part of the extension, Aleshire said no further negotiations have been discussed.

“However, I have laid out clearly in previous budget discussions that the only realistic way to achieve this short of tax increases is to phase this in over a period of time,” Aleshire said.

“In saying that, if we decided to implement this strategy, we would still have to reduce expenses elsewhere in the city. This could impact the slated contribution debt service on the baseball stadium as an example. We have to find a balance that the workers of the city and the residents will be happy with.”

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