Bradenton City Council ratifies pay raise for unionized public-works employees

BRADENTON -- Unionized public works employees in Bradenton will receive a 3 percent pay raise after city council approved a new contract Wednesday.

The increase means 140 employees who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Council 79, District 3, will earn about 50 cents more an hour. They include non-supervisory and non-public safety employees in the public works and utilities departments responsible for water, sewer and sanitation services for residents, as well as maintenance of city parks and buildings.

Union members ratified the contract earlier in the week.

City Clerk and Treasurer Carl Callahan said the raise could not wait.

"We didn't want to wait because there are pay raises associated with this and it's critical. Through collective bargaining, it was just the final piece of it. Timing is crucial. We're giving these raises for the first full pay period in October, the last week of the month, so we can't wait too long," Callahan said after the meeting.

The negotiated pay raises will cost the city about $150,000, which Callahan said had been budgeted. He also noted the union raises were approved to keep in line with pay raises approved for all non-union city employees in supervisory and clerical capacities. Non-union employees earning $50,000 and above received a 2.5 percent wage increase and those earning below $50,000 were given a 3 percent increase.

"These are living wages for employees. They run the gamut from earning $25,000 or less or up to up to $60,000 a year, depending on the nature of the job. You also have to consider what else you get with these wages. We provide health care, retirement, vacation days, sick days, holidays and so on. It's not just a pay raise and that's it," Callahan said.

Before next year's contract negotiations, the city and union will consider how to better define and clarify certain positions in the Public Works Department, which are not as clearly defined because of the nature of the jobs.

"If you have jobs with clear position details, and you understand what the qualifications and requirements are, you may be able to advance if you know how to prepare and better yourself," said Callahan.

Kathryn Moschella, reporter, can be reached 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.