AP NEWS

W-B, City Workers Union Agree To Contract

April 10, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — City hall employees will be getting raises and will no longer have to live within city limits, but they will have to start paying part of their health insurance premiums.

Mayor Tony George on Tuesday said his administration has reached an agreement with Local 1310 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents city hall employees and paramedics, on a five-year contract that benefits both the employees and the city as a whole.

“I think it’s fair to both sides,” George said.

The employees, whose contract expired at the end of 2017, will receive a 2.5% raise in 2020 and 3% raises in 2021 and 2022. There are no retroactive raises for last year or this year, but they will receive a 2% “signing bonus” this year, the mayor said.

Currently, the union employees pay no deductibles and contribute nothing toward their health insurance premiums. But starting next year, the employees will have a $250 deductible for single coverage and $500 for family coverage. The deductibles will increase to $350 and $700 in 2022.

Also in 2022, employees with HMO coverage will begin contributing 5% of their health insurance premium cost while employees with PPO coverage will contribute 10% of the cost. Caps for premium shares were set at $1,200 for single coverage and $2,200 for all other plans.

City Administrator Rick Gazenski didn’t have projected health insurance savings to the city immediately available on Tuesday.

Another union concession is that employees’ pension contributions will increase from 5% to 7% in the final year of the contract, and new hires will begin contributing at the 7% rate.

“They were used to getting 3% or 4% raises every year with no (health insurance) premium shares or copays or pension contribution increases,” George said. “They gave some concessions when they saw what the city finances are. They worked with us, which I appreciate.”

Another major union concession also begins in the final year of the contract. Employees who retire in 2022 and thereafter will no longer receive city-paid health insurance. New retirees who want to continue healthcare coverage through the city will have to pay the entire premium.

Retiree health insurance premiums cost the city more than $1.8 million last year.

George said he also agreed to remove the city’s residency requirement, so the union members will no longer be required to live within city limits.

“We can’t get people to work,” George said. “We just had a meeting, I can’t get summer help. No one wants to work anymore like when I was a kid.”

Tom Borum, a representative for Local 1310, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the contract.

The administration remains in negotiations with Teamsters Local 401, which represents Department of Public Works employees. George said he expects a similar contract will be negotiated with that union.

The administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 104 could not reach an agreement on a new contract and are waiting for an arbitrator’s decision.

The contract with the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association expires next year, and George expects negotiations with the police union to begin later this year.

Contact the writer:

smocarsky@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV