Brookfield’s public works employees will receive base-pay raises amounting to a little more than 7 percent over the next three years after the village board voted unanimously on July 28 to approve a new three-year contract.
The deal is retroactive to Jan. 1 and expires on Dec. 31, 2016. Under the terms of the contract, employees will receive base-pay raises of 2.5 percent during the first two years and a 2.35 percent raise in the final year of the deal.
However, actual raises over the three-year term of the deal will be more along the lines of 10 percent for employees who still qualify for step raises.
The starting pay for an entry-level public works employee in 2014 is $46,840. There are four salary ranges for employees based on their jobs. Top union employees in 2014 have base salaries of $73,362 per year. Additional stipends are awarded to employees holding special licenses, certificates or positions.
According to both village and union officials, the negotiations on the contract were uneventful and a far cry from the contract employees and management negotiated prior to 2011, which included a wage freeze that followed layoffs within the department.
The terms of the contract don’t differ greatly from the previous contract. Employees did win an extra holiday per year — the employee’s birthday. Another new provision in the contract calls for the village to pay out all accrued but unused vacation time upon the termination or resignation of an employee.
According to the contract, an employee cannot carry over more than 10 unused vacation days into the next year, and any carried over days must be used within the first 60 days of the next year.
Employee co-pays for non-generic prescription drugs increased and there are now new co-pay provisions for emergency room visits ($150) and office visits ($20/$40 for specialists).
The contract also changes the amount of life insurance the village will provide for employees past the age of 69 and simplifies the language regarding the village’s ability to use non-union employees or subcontractors to do custodial work in village-owned buildings.
The most notable change in the contract is that public works employees are now represented by Teamsters Union Local 705 in Chicago, after being represented for many years by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73.
Public works employees parted ways with the SEIU at the end of 2013, though the move was in the works for the past two years, according to Roman Swierczynski, on of two union stewards for the employees.
“We had a little problem with SEIU internally and we said to them we would like a resolution, and they said to take it or leave it,” said Swierczynski. “It was nothing against management or the village of Brookfield.”
The problem occurred during the first year of the union’s previous contract, which was negotiated with the help of the SEIU. As a result, the employees had to wait until the contract expired at the end of 2013 to make the move.
Even then, it was difficult to find another local to switch to.
“The Teamsters were reluctant,” said Swierczynski. “But we explained the situation to them and they agreed to take us on.”
At one time SEIU Local 73 represented Brookfield’s firefighters, public works employees and clerical staff. Now, none of those employees have SEIU representation. Firefighters switched to the International Association of Firefighters in 2011 and clerical employees decertified their union this spring. Clerical employees no longer have any union representation.