Tacoma City Council issued a mea culpa Tuesday night in the city’s dealings with one of its labor unions.
The state Public Employment Relations Commission recently ruled that the city engaged in “unfair labor practices” in negotiations with a union that represents more than two dozen employees of Click, the city-owned cable network. The city was required to admit fault, which it did publicly at the Tuesday City Council meeting.
The bargaining unit, part of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 483, filed the labor complaint last year alleging that the city had changed its stance on pay in the midst of ongoing negotiations.
The complaint says the city was initially bargaining wages at the 70th percentile – a standard that sets the pay of Tacoma workers higher than about 70 percent of workers in the region doing similar work.
But city negotiators lowered the offer to the 60th percentile in October 2012 – 17 months after negotiations began, according to the PERC ruling.
In 2008, the City Council approved a “compensation philosophy” to set wages between the 65th percentile and 75th percentile of the market. The council officially changed that policy to the 60th percentile last February, four months after the city’s labor negotiators changed their stance in bargaining with the Click workers’ union and three months after the union filed its complaint.
Joy St. Germain, the city’s human resources director, said the City Council periodically reviews its compensation philosophy and the change in philosophy was not because the union filed its complaint.
In upholding the union’s complaint, PERC ruled that the city had to read the following statement into the record: “We unlawfully breached our good-faith bargaining obligations by making a regressive wage proposal.”
The ruling also means the city must return to the bargaining table with the Click union and start wage negotiations at the 70th percentile.
Alice Phillips, business manager for IBEW 483, said the Click union’s contract ended in December 2012. It’s possible the group could receive retroactive pay for any increases in a new contract once negotiations are concluded.
“We are going to ask for that (retroactive pay) because of this process,” Phillips said Tuesday.Kate Martin: 253-597-8542