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Mayor Vincent Gray plans double-digit pay hikes for 23,000 D.C. employees

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Photo - Washington D.C. Mayor, Vinent Gray, speaks at a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in southeast Washington D.C. Monday, June 2, 2012
Washington D.C. Mayor, Vinent Gray, speaks at a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in southeast Washington D.C. Monday, June 2, 2012
Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Vincent Gray

City's cops, firefighters and teachers aren't included

Declaring the District was "righting an injustice," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced Wednesday that 23,000 city government employees will receive a double-digit pay raise, but he acknowledged that the windfall will not affect thousands of teachers, police officers and firefighters.

"Dedicated public servants have not had raises in years," Gray said. "My administration is making good on my commitment to reward city employees."

On the horizon
Most D.C. employees will begin receiving bigger paychecks this month. A mayoral spokesman said that if the D.C. Council does not act quickly enough to approve the raises, the increases would be made retroactive to mid-April.

Gray's $56 million plan, which the D.C. Council must approve, would give nearly three-quarters of the city's workforce an annual raise of 3 percent for four years. Some District government employees have not had a pay increase in seven years.

Natasha Campbell, the District government's chief labor negotiator, said the unions made several concessions to reach new deals with the city, including changes to scheduling policies and language "to outline clearly that it is a management right to conduct reductions in force."

Geo Johnson, executive director of the D.C. affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, welcomed Gray's announcement.

"I don't know an individual who doesn't want to get their salaries increased," Johnson said.

The pay hikes apply to a sweeping array of city workers -- including accountants, locksmiths, school bus drivers and employees who aren't unionized -- but the District remains locked in negotiations about the financial fate of thousands more.

Gray said the workers still at odds with the District -- most notably firefighters, police officers and teachers -- should regard the pay raises as a signal of goodwill.

"We intend to work to try to resolve all of the outstanding contracts," Gray said. "I remain optimistic and hopeful."

But some unions expressed deep frustration.

"It's pretty disgusting. We've been acting in good faith the whole time," said Edward Smith, president of the union that represents firefighters. "We're left out in the cold once again."

The contracts covering police officers and firefighters expired in 2007. The city's teachers have been without a deal since last year and are negotiating with the District.

Gray said Wednesday that mediation efforts with the firefighters had failed and that the two sides will soon begin arbitration proceedings. The police union is also in the midst of mediation.

Kristopher Baumann, the police union's chairman, charged that Gray was using public money to enhance his political standing with the organized labor groups that helped propel him to victory in 2010.

"He's getting ready to run a re-election campaign," said Baumann, whose union endorsed Gray in 2010 and has since clashed with him. "He's willing to use taxpayer dollars to make sure that certain groups are supporting him."

Johnson, one of the District's most influential labor leaders, said Wednesday that he would support Gray if he seeks a second term.

Gray has declined to say whether he will run for re-election in 2014, but he denied that the pay raises were tied to politics.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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