Havre Daily News
The local public works union has voted to reject a proposed labor contract from the city. The union president said today several items in the contract did not match the agreement that had been negotiated.
A union field representative said that if the agreement has been changed, he will consider filing an unfair labor practices complaint with the state.
Havre City Council member Terry Schend, who chairs the council's Labor Relations Committee, said today that one item was changed because it would have created a new position - something he doesn't think City Council members have the power to do - and the other two items were what negotiators had agreed on.
Schend told the City Council on Monday night that the city is closing in on tentative agreements with the police and fire unions.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 336 interim president Oscar DeLaRosa said today three items stuck out in the public works contract forwarded from the city.
"They changed the proposals," DeLaRosa said. "This contract was a done deal."
The union had asked that three positions receive a pay grade increase, that call-in pay be added when city workers handle calls after hours, and that stand-in supervisors receive increased pay, he said.
In the contract proposed by the city, DeLaRosa said, one of the three positions was not included in the pay grade increase, call-in pay would be nullified if a worker was already being paid overtime, and substitute supervisors would only receive a supervisor's pay after running the crew for a week or more.
AFSCME representative Pete Parsons said today that if the city had made changes to the agreement, that could constitute an unfair labor practice. He said he has not yet spoken with DeLaRosa.
"If they changed that, the union would consider that an unfair labor practice, and I would file that," Parsons said.
The union had proposed that the city increase the earnings of a meter reader and two truck operators by a full pay grade, which would create specific positions for those workers. Under the current contract, the three employees are general service workers who can be assigned to do anything on any given day.
The city's proposed contract increases the pay grade of the truck operators but does not do so for the assistant meter reader.
Schend said there is no assistant meter reading position, and he doesn't think the City Council has the power to create that position.
"We don't have a problem with increasing the pay grade," Schend said. "There is no position for the (assistant) meter reader. The meter reader is actually a management position. She's had someone from the work force assist her in doing her job.
"I don't think that we, as a City Council, can create positions within the departments."
The issue of pay grades was raised earlier in the summer. After both sides had reached agreement on a contract, Schend tried to reopen negotiations with the union after discussing the matter with Havre Mayor Bob Rice. City public works director Dave Peterson said that changing the positions would be detrimental to the department's budget and operations.
The union and the city also agreed that workers filling in as supervisors would receive an additional $2 an hour, and that workers called in after hours would receive an extra 40 cents an hour, DeLaRosa said.
In the agreement forwarded by the city, workers would receive supervisor pay only if they filled that role for a week or more, and workers would receive call-in pay only if they hadn't already exceeded 40 hours for the week, he said.
Schend said those two proposals were in line with what was negotiated. He said he lifted the language regarding supervisor pay out of the current contract and copied it verbatim into the new, changing only the amount of pay.
"I stated exactly how it states in the contract," he said. "I changed the dollar to two dollars."
Schend said the weeklong requirement for supervisor pay is in the current contract, but the city has a practice of paying workers extra for any amount of time they fill in as supervisors.
Schend said there was much discussion about the extra pay for call-ins, and he put language in the proposed agreement that he thought represented that discussion.
"We had a lengthy discussion about that," Schend said. "The guys that were in the meeting felt the differential pay was not important to them. They understood the city's position on that. I just clarified it. Obviously, Oscar had a different concept of what we talked about."
Schend said he will speak with city attorney Mary VanBuskirk to clarify where he should go from here regarding the contract.
DeLaRosa said the union is ready and willing to negotiate further.
"I don't foresee us backing down," he added.
DeLaRosa also said he believes the contract was changed because Rice and deputy public works director Gary Schaub took issue with the proposals.
"They did not like it, so they declined it," DeLaRosa said. "That's my understanding of it. I thought that's why we have a negotiating committee. I don't understand how the mayor and Gary Schaub come into the picture. That's the reason it's not settled."
Rice and Schaub could not be reached for comment.
On another issue, DeLaRosa said today the union voted unanimously to go to arbitration to settle a grievance he filed against the city after Schaub suspended him for three days without pay for working without orders.
The City Council's Grievance Committee awarded him his pay and decided to remove the incident from his record, but - citing concerns over mistakes made both by DeLaRosa and management - declined to order Schaub to apologize in writing. DeLaRosa has said he wants the apology.
A meeting of the Labor Relations Committee and police union representatives is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m.