Montgomery Council approves union raises

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Labor unions,Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Council approved a trio of pay raises for union employees, which will cost the county almost $32 million in fiscal 2014.

The council approved the firefighters, police and county government employees union packages 8-1, with only Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, voting against the contracts. He repeatedly has said they're too high and unsustainable.

Though the packages span two years, the council approved only the first year of the deals, which would give employees an average of 7 to 10 percent raises. That would cost the county about $31.6 million.

In total, the two-year contracts would give firefighters a 19.5 percent pay raise, police 14.7 percent and county employees 13.5 percent, with the county paying out $105.3 million. County employees have not received a pay raise in four years but received a $2,000 bonus in fiscal 2012.

Council President Nancy Navarro, D-Eastern County, said the council will revisit the contracts next year to determine if the raises are sustainable.

Andrews has been the only council member critical of the raises. He has proposed reducing the contracts by 35 percent and using the $11.4 million saved to reduce the county's energy tax.

Some nonrepresented employees would receive a raise as well. County Executive Ike Leggett proposed 376 senior managers receive a 3.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment, with some eligible for an additional 3.5 percent based on performance. The council approved that measure.

Only 15 percent of the county's workforce -- about 1,400 people -- are not represented by unions.

Gino Renne, president of the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, said the vote was a victory for union members who have gone without during the recession. Though he is happy about fiscal 2014 raises, he said he and other union leaders will wait and see what the economic climate becomes for fiscal 2015.

"At the end of the day, it's all about the math," he said. "We're obviously going to expect the contracts be honored, as we always do with multiyear contracts, but at the same time, we're realists. If we're faced with another [economic] dip, that's going to make things complicated."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner