City boosts pay scale for non-union workers

The scale reflects a 2-percent increase approved earlier this year.

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WALLA WALLA — An ordinance authorizing a 2 percent pay-scale increase in 2013 for all non-union city employees, including department heads, has been approved by the Walla Walla City Council.

The increases, for the most part, represents a direct salary increases for employees, except for 19 employees whose pay is already above the highest level of the scale. Their salaries are frozen at this point, city officials said.

Wednesday’s approval of the new pay-scale ordinance comes more than four months after the salary increases were initiated at the start of the year.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson said the reason for the delay was a strategic one dealing with negotiations for union-represented workers.

“The short answer is that we were in the middle of negotiations with (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 1191-W) and I didn’t want to go through and adopt something they could use in the course of negotiations and adopt something that they could use against the city,” Donaldson said.

The city also has two other unions it must contend with this year. One of them — Walla Walla Police Guild — is headed toward binding arbitration and most likely won’t be settled until after Labor Day, City Manager Nabiel Shawa said. The Walla Walla Professional Firefighters Association Local 404 is still in mediation.

Three weeks ago at its meeting, the council approved a two-year contract with AFSCME 1191-W — the city’s largest union. That contract also included a 2 percent increase for this year and another 2 percent in 2014.

Union officials declined to comment to the Union-Bulletin until June, when the new contract is officially in place.

Although both 1191-W and non-union employees are receiving similar raises, the amounts and how they have been determined in recent years varies. AFSCME 1191-W’s last contract with the city covered the years 2009-2012. Under that contract, salary adjustments were tied to cost-of-living increases or decreases.

The result was 1191-W employes saw a flat year in 2009 because of a salary freeze during union negotiations with the city. The next year 1191-W employees took a 2.4 percent decrease in 2010 because of drop in the cost-of-living index. Then in 2011 they received a 0.7 percent increase, which was followed by a 3.7 percent increase in 2012.

The end total for all four years came to a 1.9 percent increase since 2009.

The new 2013-2014 contract for 1191-W will not be based on cost-of-living but a flat 2 percent. That translates to an additional cost to the city of $35,000 each year.

Non-represented employees, on the other had, have fared better than their union counterparts, at least since 2010 when the city started adjusting salaries based on cost-of-labor.

According to a 2011 Union-Bulletin article, in 2010 the city increased salary scales for a number of non-represented positions that were determined to be below the cost-of-labor median average. That year, some pay scales, including those for department heads, saw as much as a 5 percent increase as the city attempted to bring salaries to a competitive wage based on cost-of-labor.

Then in 2011, the city again increased salary scales for a number of non-represented employees who were still under the median average; that adjustment included four key directors, all of whom received 7.1 percent increases. In 2012, non-represented employees received another 2 percent hike.

Because human resources staff were unavailable, Shawa was unable to say how much the 2013 salary increases for non-union employees will cost the city.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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