City, DPW Workers Agree To New Contract

April 11, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — The city administration has reached a contract agreement with another employee union this week — the organization representing Department of Public Works employees.

Mayor Tony George on Wednesday said his administration has reached an agreement with Teamsters Local 401 that is similar to the agreement finalized Tuesday with Local 1310 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents city hall employees and paramedics.

The employees, whose contract expired at the end of 2017, will receive average raises of 2.5% in 2020 and 3% 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.

The difference between the two contracts is that raises for DPW will be specific dollar amounts across-the-board based on the average of all DPW worker salaries, which will give the paychecks of the newest workers a larger relative boost.

Raises for city hall employees and paramedics were based on percentages of individual salaries.

Currently, employees in neither union pay deductibles nor do they contribute toward their health insurance premiums. But starting next year, employees in both unions 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.

Both unions also made the concession 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.

The other major union concession for both unions 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.

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

George said he also agreed to grant DPW workers a few more sick days to bring the number closer to the number afforded to LIUNA members.

“Those guys are out working in all kinds of weather — rain, snow, sleet. They deserve a few more days,” he said.