Taking a glimpse into city employment
Did you know that many of the employees of the City of Beatrice are covered by a union contract? Employees at the City fall into one of four categories: Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #84, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #1536, Firefighter’s Union Local #1098, or non-union employees. Each one of the unions has a separate union contract between themselves and the City of Beatrice, which governs thing such as wages, vacation leave, sick leave, and many other items.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) represents the Police Officers, Police Sergeants, and Dispatchers. The Chief of Police, Police Captain, and Police Lieutenant are non-union employees.
The Firefighter’s Union represents all the Firefighters in our Fire Department, except for Fire Chief, the Deputy Chief, and the Fire Captains.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represents a whole host of City Employees including but not limited to the Street Department, Electric Department, WPC Department, Water Department, Landfill, Building Inspections Department, the staff at City Hall, and employees at the Police Department who are not Police Officers or Dispatchers.
Non-union employees of the City generally include the department heads, part-time employees, and seasonal employees.
Every couple of years, the unions and the City negotiate their union contract. While these union contracts have been anywhere at length from one year to six years, probably the most common length of contract is three years. Currently all union three union contracts are set to be re-negotiated this summer.
By State Law, the City has to pay its employees a comparable wage. Obviously, the devil is in the details, but the broad picture in determining a comparable wage is as follows: first determine the array that you are going to compare to. This array must include at least seven and no more than nine towns that range in size from half of our population to twice our population. Our array also cannot include any metropolitan statistical areas. So Seward and South Sioux City are eliminated from possible array communities. Once you have identified the communities in your array, you look at the wages paid for each job classification. Comparing a Police Officer in Beatrice to a Police Officer in McCook is generally an easy task, while trying to compare a Secretary II in Beatrice to a comparable position in Alliance is more difficult and requires reviewing job descriptions. Once you have identified comparable jobs, we have to calculate the total minimum and total maximum hourly wage for that job. So for each community in the array, you start with the minimum wage for that job, then add in the amount of pension paid, and then add in the value of the health insurance calculated on a per-hour basis. We do this for both the minimum wage and the maximum wage for that job. Once we have calculated the minimum and maximum hourly wage for each job description for each town in our array, we calculate the mean, median, and midpoint for the total minimum hourly wage and the total maximum hourly wage. Finally, we compare Beatrice’s total minimum hourly wage and total maximum hourly wage to the midpoint for the array. By State Law, the City has to be between ninety eight (98) and one hundred two (102) percent of the midpoint.
In addition to being comparable on wages, State Law requires the City be comparable on all other benefits as well. As an example, if the majority of the other police unions in our array receive 10 holidays per year, then we would have to offer 10 holidays per year to our Police Officers. Over the years, most of these other benefits have fine-tuned and polished so they are generally no longer of concern when we go into negotiations. Finally, if the union and the City cannot agree on a benefit or on a wage, either party has the right to go to the Court of Industrial Relations (CIR) to have the issue resolved. Fortunately the City and the unions have had a very good working relationship, and we’ve been able to negotiate any issue amongst ourselves without having to proceed to the CIR.
As for non-union employees, they have no collective bargaining power with the City. For decades the City has followed many of the same terms and conditions of the various union contracts for their non-union employees, and in 2014 the City Council adopted the Handbook for Non-Union Employees. We simply put all of the various rules and regulations regarding health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave all into one document to make it easier to find and locate.
Hopefully this has provided you with at least a glimpse into the insight of employment in the City. Or if you are ever wondering why a City employees receive some of the benefit or pay that they do, you may have a little more understanding behind it. The fortunate part for the City of Beatrice is both the employees and the City Council have been reasonable and fair with each other, which leads to a much better work environment and smoother negotiations.