Three labor contracts still unsettled

ESCANABA — Three of five unions representing employees of the city of Escanaba have not reached labor agreements for the new fiscal year, which began on July 1.

Though negotiations have taken place, contracts have yet to be approved for electrical workers, public works clerical employees, and the water/wastewater workers.

Electrical workers and the city’s negotiating team failed to come to an agreement when the two parties met with a state mediator in early June.

Following the stalemate, the union filed for the state to conduct fact-finding on comparable wages and pensions and make a recommendation, explained Phil Barnett, representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The recommendation from the state would be non-binding and will be considered by the union, explained Barnett in a telephone interview with the Daily Press.

“We want this to end well… not poorly,” Barnett added, commenting on the negotiation process.

Pending the state recommendation, no new meetings have been scheduled to continue labor talks between the union and the city’s negotiating team, which is made up of the new City Manager Patrick Jordan, Human Resources Director/City Treasurer Bob Valentine, City Controller Melissa Becotte, and the city’s attorney, Ralph “B.K.” Peterson.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Valentine said the two parties will return to mediation after the Michigan Employment Relations Commission completes the fact-finding process with a non-binding recommendation.

Valentine noted this is the first time the city has been involved in fact-finding since he was hired as the human resources director in 2005.

In addition to the electrical workers union, two other unions representing city employees have yet to reach contracts with the city.

Valentine said meetings are in the process of being scheduled for public works clerical workers and water/wastewater employees.

Labor agreements were approved in early June for two unions representing police officers and public safety command.

Both of these union contracts are three-year pacts, which include a 2-percent cost-of-living wage increase effective July 1, 2017, July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019.

Escanaba’s 2017-2018 budget includes 2-percent wage increases for non-union administrators for the current fiscal year.