The Kansas City Council’s Finance Committee on Wednesday endorsed a new wage agreement with the city’s largest union that would extend through April 30, 2020.
The full City Council votes Thursday on the collective bargaining agreement, which would be retroactive to May 1 with Local 500 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Local 500 is the city’s blue-collar workers’ union and has an estimated 1,500 members, who do everything from filling potholes and answering animal control complaints to maintaining the city’s sewers and driving airport buses. It is the last municipal union to reach a new agreement with the city, following the firefighters’ and fire battalion chiefs.
But while this agreement, like those other agreements, buys the city a few years of labor peace, it also imposes added budget pressure because it gives employees more than the 2 percent annual raise that was contemplated in last year’s five-year financial plan.
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“It is a concern,” City Councilman Scott Wagner, finance committee chair, conceded Wednesday, as he noted that the city’s revenues are not growing as fast as its employee expenses are. “We may have to make cuts somewhere else.”
But Wagner and others noted that the city values its employees, and said this was an agreement that both city management and union members could compromise on after very protracted negotiations.
Finance officials calculated that the wage increase averages out to about 2.9 percent per year over the life of the agreement, although it varies by employee. Local 500 employees will get an increase of about 2.2 percent this year and then step increases on their anniversary dates. The maximum step increase is 3.25 percent and the smallest step increase, at the top of the scale, is 1 percent.
The overall cost of the Local 500 employee raises through April 2020 is estimated at $21.4 million, which is about $6.8 million more than a recent five-year financial plan projected. The new five-year plan will incorporate that higher calculation.
The city’s agreement earlier this year with Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters also provided annual raises of at least 2.6 percent, greater than a few City Council members had wanted to pay. But the Council majority said public safety was their highest priority and the fire fighters deserved the pay increases.