Danville settles one contract; three remaining

Danville settles one contract; three remaining

DANVILLE — The city of Danville has four union contracts it has been negotiating for more than a year, and one was recently settled while another will go to arbitration next month, according to city officials.

Corporate Counsel David Wesner said negotiations over the next police command contract, which includes only sergeants and commanders in the Danville police department, will go to arbitration in December, and the main issues are salaries and insurance. The previous contract expired in April 2011.

The city also is negotiating the next police patrol contract, which covers about 60 police officers. The previous police patrol contract expired in April of this year. The city is also negotiating contracts for firefighters and firefighter commanders. Together both contracts represent more than 50 in the fire division, and their previous contracts also expired in April 2011.

Wesner said none of those three is close to being resolved, and likely won't be until after the city's property tax levy for next year is approved.

City administration is anticipating another decline in equalized assessed valuation in the city, which could mean a decrease in property tax revenue for next year. City administration officials have been proposing different property tax levy scenarios, some of which could mean cuts in personnel, although no specific cuts have been proposed.

But the city did recently reach an agreement on one of the four contracts that's been negotiated for some time.

Last week, the city council approved a new contract with 15 clerical staff members who are in positions across various city departments — but the majority are in the police division. They are represented by the International Laborers Union of North America Local 703, and the average annual wages among the group is $29,000, according to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer.

The new four-year contract is retroactive to April 2011 and gives no wage increase in the first year, from May 1, 2011, to April 30, 2012. But in year two, which began May 1, 2012, wages would increase 3 percent, and 3.5 percent the third year, beginning May 1, 2013, and 3.5 percent in the fourth year, beginning May 1, 2014.

Eisenhauer said the raises in the last three years of the contract are essentially wiped out by increases in the employees' health insurance premiums. Not only are health insurance costs going up about 12-15 percent for the city next year, but the new contract changes the employees' contribution toward their health insurance premiums from a flat number to a percentage of the overall premium. So, from the second year of the contract through the fourth, the employees will pay 10 percent of the health insurance premium and the city 90 percent.

Eisenhauer said on average the employees will see a $900 increase in wages per year but about the same increase in health insurance costs. He said this contract is also a break-even for the city, which will pay $15,000 more in wages to the 15 employees, but the city will break even because the employees will be covering about that same amount in increased health insurance costs.

The new contract contains several other changes, too.

— Longevity: Three longevity steps were eliminated for current employees, and the first step now comes at one year. For new hires, there will be fewer longevity steps and lower increases at those steps.

— Discipline: First disciplinary step for tardiness was removed, allowing more serious discipline for tardiness to be reached sooner.

— Grievance procedure: An employee may no longer, on his or her own, advance a grievance to arbitration. Only the union will be able to advance a grievance to arbitration.