Nearly $8M in concessions from unions helps balance Washtenaw County's budget
Washtenaw County Administrator Verna McDaniel says she's happy to report she'll be able to present a balanced two-year budget to the county board next week.
That's possible after a breakthrough labor agreement reached with the county's largest union, AFSCME Local 2733, which represents 644 employees.
By a 2-to-1 margin, the union's membership agreed to a new contract that includes several concessions, including paying more toward their health care and pensions.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Tuesday to ratify the new contract, along with similar agreements with the AFSCME Local 3052 trial court supervisors and the district court supervisors and clerical workers bargaining units.
With the latest agreements in place, the county now has successfully negotiated new contracts with 970 of its employees, leaving only 93 more employees to go.
"We're just very pleased the employees came through," McDaniel said, noting the concessions achieved to date add up to about $7.7 million in savings in calendar years 2012 and 2013.
McDaniel said the same concessions achieved with AFSCME Local 2733 are expected to be imposed on nonunion employees.
County officials have been working to address an estimated $17.5 million budget deficit over the next two years, aiming for $8 million in employee concessions to help close the gap.
McDaniel said expected concessions from the remaining three bargaining units should put the county at its $8 million goal. The remaining 93 employees are represented by the public defenders, prosecuting attorneys and Local 3052 general supervisors bargaining units.
Commissioners offered praises on Tuesday for those unions that have agreed to concessions to help balance the county's budget.
"Our employees are loyal to us, they understand what's going on, and they really stepped up to the plate. I can't thank them enough," said Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor.
"What it means for the county's budget is we're going to be able to go forward with the activities we've planned to serve people in this community," she said. "And it's thanks to the really goodwill of the unions, and the good-faith bargaining, so I'm thrilled."
Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, agreed the concessions will keep the county board from having to make massive cuts.
"This is a win for the staff, for the administration and for the county as a whole," he said. "We're going to be able to maintain as many of our programs as possible."
Caryette Fenner, president of AFSCME Local 2733, said the county was asking her union for about $1.8 million in concessions in 2012 and 2013. The numbers haven't been tallied yet, but she guessed the negotiated contract ratified on Tuesday falls just short of that.
"I know that it was really tough, and a lot of (union members) were really upset because we gave concessions the last time," she said of the new contract. "But I think when the group came together, once again, they did this in an effort to try to make sure they saved jobs."
All of the contracts ratified on Tuesday run through Dec. 31, 2013. They include clauses stating if property tax revenues increase by at least 2 percent on or before Dec. 31, 2012, a 1 percent wage increase would become effective Jan. 1, 2013.
The contract with AFSCME Local 2733 changes the vesting period for employees from 8 to 10 years, but it allows currently vested employees to remain grandfathered in.
The contract also includes elimination of vacation payout and has the union taking 10 "bank leave days," similar to furlough days, in each of the next two years.
The county also is eliminating a medical waiver payout, which Fenner said amounted to about $90 a month for employees who opted out of the county's health care plan. The county also is freezing tuition reimbursements and eliminating longevity for new hires.
Despite mostly success at the negotiating table, the county did suffer one setback on Tuesday when the members of the AFSCME Local 3052 general supervisors — about 56 mid-level managers — voted to turn down a contract the county board was hoping to ratify.
President Nancy Heine said Local 3052 represents both the general supervisors and the trial court supervisors, which held separate ratification votes on Tuesday. While the trial court supervisors went along with the new contract, the general supervisors did not.
"We hope that we could come back to the table as quickly possible to resolve the issues," Heine said. "We intend on polling our membership to see exactly what the issues were and why they did not like this contract and why they did not support ratification of it."
Noting many of the general supervisors have been with the county a long time, Heine said members had concerns about cuts in longevity pay.
"That would directly impact them probably a little bit more," she said. "The longer-term employees, it was like they got hit harder because their longevity is at a higher percentage and they felt that was maybe unfair. Usually you try to reward your longer-term employees."
Heine believed there was just a general discomfort with the level of concessions, which she said involved "several percentage points of less income."
"We are in really a fourth year of concessions, and people that are nearing the end of their time here at the county are noticing, 'Wow, my salary is going down,'" she said. "This is going to be an additional pay cut on top of everything we have given up. We were going to have premium sharing and more costs coming out of our pockets for health care and more costs coming out for our pension, as well as our longevity being cut."
Local 3052 has filed numerous grievances with the county as its positions have been eliminated in recent years. An outstanding complaint about nonunion supervisors taking over Local 3052 work is still pending in administrative law court.
Heine said she's hopeful the union and the county can settle their issues at the negotiating table, but she stressed Local 3052 can't offer a lot of savings to the general fund.
"We have very few employees — nine, to be exact — in our membership that are general fund employees," she said. "So you're not going to get a lot of savings from our bargaining unit to satisfy the deficit for the general fund."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.
What, they didn't have to forfeit their collective bargaining rights? What a concept. Heck of a deal!!!
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.
On the issue of relative worth, I have always tought that everyone but me is grossly overpaid and lavished with unearned perqs. Nice to see everyone else thinks as I do.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.
From the other side: Re: longevity, in the private sector if you do a good job you often receive a bonus or a raise. Prior to our economy tanking, 2007, we have not received any cost of living or raise. Therefore, a longevity check has been our only compensation we receive. Re: Pay, I have 20+ years of experience, two masters' degrees (and no the county did not pay for it) and I could be paid more if I went to be an Administrative Assistant somewhere in the "Private Sector". However, I have chosen to receive less pay and pay 10% of my pay into a pension system so I can be assured a plan to retire on. I would like to have many of you private sector people do our job for one day, go into dangerous homes and deal with Domestic Issues daily. We don't get a "good job" or here is a little extra in your check for doing a "good job" we do this work because we don't have that "privileged" attitude.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.
Actually, it sounds like personal responsibility which seemingly has been lost to some other belief system. The bottom line is that our tax dollars need to be spent wisely. Who wants to overpay for something? No one. Period.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.
Sounds like jealousy, GRYE. Should have made better decisions.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.
The issue many have is that the pensions are funded by our tax money. Those of us in the private sector must fund our own retirements with some matching from the employer. We do not have a pension and must rely upon saving extraordinary amounts of our income into sometimes volatile investment programs in the hopes that it will grow to a level that we will be able to retire. Your pension starts at a given date and the money is assured forever. We will not have that luxury. Suggest your pension go away, your pay increases 10%, and you start up a 401K.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.
Insert standard opening criticism here. Those City, Union, County, State, AAPS, (circle one) people are out of their minds. My happiness depends on them being brought down. We in the Private Sector are so much more efficient and under paid. Look at us. We have brought you things like for-profit health insurance, mortgaged backed securities, customer service call centers in India, Walmart and 3D TV. Those City, Union, County, State, AAPS, (circle one) are stupid and make too much money. The world will not be right until they are all adrift on Sh_t Lake like me. Because we all know that this bad economy is government's fault. Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. Thank the troops. Wear your FDNY cap today and God Bless. There I feel better.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.
Tax revenues are down, that's the whole point. Health care costs are up. Look up "structural deficit." Making employees pay more and more is not going to address the problem. Your irresponsible promises are last generation's middle class. PS I am not in a union, never have beeen.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.
I don't want to take away anything you already have as long as you can find another way to pay for it, without coming back to me hat in hand for more taxes. The problem is that union members want people making much less than them to pony up mor property taxes for the irresponsible promises of long retired (with great benefit packages) politicians.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.
Birthday off? jeeze
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.
"The union's health care plan also is changing. Local 2733 members have never paid premiums before, but starting in 2012 they'll now pay $75 a month plus deductibles and co-insurance." What a "freakin joke". These folks , the WBCOC are high fiving themselves all over and doing the end zone dance over this, as if it were a real giveback ? I , as a private sector worker in the same job with a decent , respectable employer for 13 years, pay $340 a month for insurance that I can assure you is no where close to what these folks just did a deal on. They have never paid a premium till now, are we the worlds biggest chumps or what ????????????????????????????? Good Day
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.
It's hard to believe that so many miss the point. We pay the taxes that provide these benefits. Our politicians should use OUR tax dollars wisely. Our tax dollars should be treated as a precious scarce resource. It's not about taking away from unions, it's about spending our money wisely. Are any of you willing to pay extra for something? That's what was going on here folks.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.
If you feel sorry for Snoopdog vote here. BooHoo Snoopdog.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 11 a.m.
In other words, "What I don't get, no one else should get."
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 9:18 a.m.
Snoop is the 4,000 you pay each year for a single person or a family plan? What health care plan does your employer carry?
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.
With all the unions taking cuts, giving up items, and paying more money. I have failed to read or maybe I missed it, but what about all the non-union workers for the county....... Have they given anything back..... I still have not read where the Board of Commissioners or the County leadership have given anything big up.... As an County employee that has gone without a pay raise for years, but given up things and paying more out of pocket, it just makes me wonder.... Hmmm...
Original Ann Arborite
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.
@Ryan, will A2.com follow through to see if that really happens?
Ryan J. Stanton
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4 a.m.
McDaniel said the same concessions achieved with AFSCME Local 2733 are expected to be imposed on nonunion employees.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.
>> ...more costs coming out [of our pockets] for our pension... This statement alone says everything.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.
Supervisors unions - exactly what is wrong with the public sector. The workplace is fragmented between different unions, different locals, different benefit plans, different work rules. Can we simplify this somehow? I believe that the non-supervisory employees are entitled to collective bargaining and representation, if they choose. However people in positions of authority in the workplace should give up these privileges and arcane "longevity" raises. Do doctors, lawyers, and engineers get "longevity" pay? If you can't do your job as well as the other supervisors, you should expect your pay to stagnate and maybe you will choose to go back to the hive. If you do an exceptional job, you should be rewarded.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.
Fantastic, great to see people recognize fiscal reality
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 6 p.m.
Clownfish - we sacrifice our earned wages in the form of tax dollars that pay these peoples benefits. As Snoopdog pointed out, and I can too, we pay far more per month in the private sector. As the supplier of these tax dollars, I'd like to see our politicians treat them as the precious resource they are. It's not about unions losing as you suggest.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.
No cop out. I don't want to pay public unions, I would rather keep more of the money I earn to invest as I see fit. I work in private industry, people have to pay me what the market bears because they cannot receive better services at a cheaper rate. I do not strike, protest etc. complain about my wages etc. The same cannot be said of public employees, there are thousands of people willing to take those jobs right now (all of which would probably be better workers)
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.
What a cop out. You want other people to make personal sacrifice for the good of the community, but are unwilling to do it yourself? Do you create your own money, or do you get paid by other people?
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.
Sacrifice? I build.. Sacrfice is a word used by people who want to take other people's money.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.
So, once again unions make concessions. What are you willing to sacrifice for the community? Anything?
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:11 a.m.
I am not jealous or envious of what my neighbor makes good for him/her.
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.
Tuition reimbursement? No wonder everybody has masters degrees. And there is work that can only be performed by union members? Can I plug in my own pencil sharpener or do Ihave to wait for the electrician? Or is that a union confidential issue?
Thu, Sep 15, 2011 : 4:25 a.m.
We may be in disagreement on what constitutes "enhancing the job position". Just that phrasing indicates a self serving element. You would have been more convincing if you had mentioned "increasing efficientcy for providing better services for the citizenry", but then that hasn't happened has it? So tell me again the benefit of taxpayers paying for more education, and try to be specific this time. Oh, yeah. Is there pay bump for every degree you get?
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.
Is there a problem with tuition reimbursement if the education will enhance the job position?