Agreement reached with AFSCME

DeKALB – An agreement has been reached between the city and a union representing about 70 city workers to avoid layoffs of three of those workers.

The city had postponed action on the layoffs in order to give both parties more time to negotiate, City Manager Mark Biernacki said Thursday as he announced the agreement with the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

However, the fate of three firefighters' jobs still is unknown; the department faces layoffs Monday, when the DeKalb City Council will take up both employment issues.

AFSCME members voted Wednesday night on a proposal where they will take a wage freeze for one year, and in return, the city will not lay off any workers through the remainder of the contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2010.

That guarantee of no layoffs has been a sticking point between the two parties throughout the negotiation process, which began in April.

In addition, AFSCME's health insurance premium costs will not go up in 2010, Biernacki said. Currently, employees pay 15 percent of the premium, which was supposed to increase to 20 percent on July 1, 2010.

Biernacki thanked AFSCME representatives for their hard work, and called the negotiation process "cordial."

Mike Taylor, AFSCME local president, said that membership did not support the new contract terms unanimously. The vote was split, he said, with about one-quarter of the membership rejecting it.

But he maintained that it's the union's priority to avoid layoffs while sticking to the contract.

"We do still want our contract honored through the length of the agreement, and we hope that the city can recover and the economy can recover in the next 18 months, and we can still provide the services DeKalb needs," he said.

Biernacki said the city is "in active negotiations" with International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1236, and that he has received a counter-proposal to what the city had recently proposed. Aldermen will discuss that proposal in closed session, just before the 7 p.m. regular meeting on Monday.

Four employee groups – management, police, fire and AFSCME – had been asked to take a wage freeze for the 2010 fiscal year in order to have a balanced budget, which would save about $480,000, city officials have said. If wage concessions weren't made, layoffs would result in order to pay employees their contractual raises.

Management employees have agreed to the wage freeze, and the police union has a tentative contract in place; its last contract expired in 2008.