The City has reached contract agreements with two key employee groups that call for zero percent increases  in 2019 and a low wage increase the year after, in what one official called a “huge step forward” in helping the city improve its financial situation.

At the Feb. 11 City Council Administration & Public Works Committee meeting, city officials announced  reaching four-year collective bargaining agreements with both the Evanston  Sergeants Association, representing 20 employees in the Police Department; as well  as the American Federation of State, County  and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME), representing 354 employees  in departments throughout the city.

In both cases, the employee groups agreed to 0% percent increases in 2019 and  a low wage rate increase the year after.

In brief discussion at the A&PW Committee, Ald. Cicely Fleming, 9th, sought more detail  on the city’s savings the contracts would bring.

 “How is this helpful?” she asked staff.

Assistant City Manager Erika Storlie said the city started negotiating the agreements back in the fall, facing a very difficult budget, “so having the cooperation of these two unions  to get to this agreement that was ratified by both of them is a huge step forward.  It gives both the city and the unions some certainty going forward the next four years.  It allows us to adequately plan for the future,” she said.

As far as savings, officials had initially budgeted a 2.6% percent increase for the groups and then  replaced that figure with a 0% increase to bring in line last year’s budget,  Ms.  Storlie explained.

In the case of the sergeants, the 2.6% versus 0% increase will result in a $66,000 savings this year and  for ASCME  that  number is $320,000, she reported.

“So to get those zeros was very important for us to get through this year,” Ms.Storlie told Committee members.

Further, because the city was able to get those agreed- upon rates in place, the city will also likely see lower pension costs down the road, Ms. Storlie said.

Ald. Fleming responded with a “thank you” to the Police Sergeants and AFSCME  “for understanding that our taxpayers have a cap on what they can pay. They (employees) are still dedicated to serving our tax base, even when taking a zero increase this year. I’ll just thank them for that.”

Both contracts cover a four year term, running from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2022, staff members  Michelle  Masoncup, Corporation Counsel,  Jennifer  Lin, Human Resources Director, and Ms. Storlie announced in their memo.

The wage increases for both groups  are 0% for 2019, 1.5% for 2020,  2.5% for 2021 and 3% for 2022. Under both contracts, employees will see an increase in employee contributions to insurance premiums, with their percentages increasing from 10 to 15% for  PPO’s (short for Preferred Provider Organization),  and 10% to 12% for HMO’s (short for Health Maintenance Organization), staff  said. The two contracts include one-time considerations in recognition of the concessions the groups made.

For the  police sergeants group, 16 hours of compensatory time will  be placed into each sergeant’s “comp time” bank  for  use  in  2019.

In the case of  ASCME employees, as a one-time consideration for  concessions on wage increases, the city is granting  the employees additional floating holidays in each of  the contract’s  four years, staff reported.
In addition, the City has agreed not to lay off any of ASCME’s 2019 budgeted employees for the remainder of 2019,  and has agreed  to no  furlough days for the term of that group’s contract. Employees who are laid off after 2019  will also receive an additional two weeks of severance under the agreement.

Council  members approved the collective  bargaining  agreements as part of consent agenda  at  the full council meeting.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.