The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 9, 2014

'Fair offer' differences

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON – City personnel disagree about what a “fair offer” looks like.

During Tuesday’s Clinton City Council meeting, firefighters union rep Chris Melvin addressed elected officials in praise of the on-paper agreement to bump up emergency personnel wages by 4 percent over the next 30 months. After collective bargaining negotiations, Melvin called the increase “fair” considering rising costs in health insurance and other common expenses.

“It is actually a very significant paycut to every member of our unit,” he said, pointing to the costs. “As a union, we know the financial hardship the city has seen…. We worked very diligently to come up with the offer.”

However, some council members had a different take. Councilman Tom Determann led off by stating he would vote against the agreement.

“It’s too high, I don’t like the flat rate for health insurance,” Determann said. “I thought we agreed on (a 3 percent raise) and there wasn’t a 3 percent.”

In addition to the 4-percent raise, the two-year agreement called for fire lieutenants to receive 5 percent raises and a new medical insurance plan to begin next January. The plan included a $500 deductible for single users in network as well as dental coverage.

One item missing for Councilman Ed O’Neill was the bottom line. He questioned how he was expected to rule on the agreement without having a full cost estimate.

“If somebody knows where the money’s coming from, please tell me,” he said. “This is a contract that’s going to be $72,000 on the budget and I don’t know where it’s coming from.”

He criticized the “poor business practice” of relying on a firefighter’s rumored retirement while offering wage hikes. City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the person slated for retirement submitted his paperwork.

Councilman John Rowland motioned to table the discussion, arguing there’s no rush to approve or deny the agreement and it could avoid the city and the union entering arbitration.

“I think we need to probably just take two weeks to think about it,” he said.

The council will discuss the agreement at a later date.