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City, union ink 3-year deal

The city of The Dalles and Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union have reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Earlier this month, the city’s unionized employees voted unanimously to accept the city’s three-year contract offer, and in turn – on May 8 – The Dalles City Council voted unanimously to approve the deal.

The Dalles City Manager Julie Krueger said there were two key highlights of the contract that benefit the city’s union employees.

“The two main things were a 2 percent cost of living adjustment, effective July 1, and adding Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday,” Krueger explained.

The added MLK holiday, which comes in mid-January, will be effective as of 2018.

According to Daniel Hunter, director of the city’s Human Resources Department, the city has 47 employees who are represented by SEIU. The SEIU workers handle a variety of public service jobs in The Dalles, including working in the library, at City Hall, with the Public Works Department, and at the water treatment plant.

Hunter said there was also a change in the amount the city pays for the health care premiums of its union workers.

“This year’s premiums only increased at 4 percent, so this change will not affect employees this year.

“The maximum increase in health care premiums the city would pay went from 8 percent to 7 percent; any increase above that would be paid by the employee,” Hunter said. “As an example, if the premium was $100 this year and next year it increased to $108, the city would pay $107 and the employee would pay $1.”

On Thursday, Jerry Johnson, who works for the city’s Public Works Department and serves as the local union president, said he was pleased with the new agreement.

“I think it’s a good contract,” he said.

Johnson said in his view, the best part of the contract is the reduction in health care costs for employees this year.

“The city is going to pick up this year’s increase,” he explained.

“The only other change of significance is the decrease in maximum sick leave hours before the excess starts going into the employee’s Voluntary Employee Benefit Account,” Hunter added. “VEBA is a health care retirement account. The decrease went from 800 hours of accrued sick leave to 600 hours before contributions are made to their VEBA.”

Johnson said having the union members vote unanimously to approve the deal was not typical.

“Normally we have two or three people who vote against it,” Johnson said. “But we have different people who come to vote, and new people. I think the employees trust the people on the negotiating committee. They felt they did a good job, and were OK with it.”

City Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss said she was happy to see the negotiating process proceed so smoothly.

“I am grateful that City Manager Julie Krueger and SEIU were able to work together and come up with a contract that was good for both parties and easily approved,” Long-Curtiss said. “I am especially pleased that the city of The Dalles will now be celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.”

Johnson said the agreement will be in effect through June 30, 2020.

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