City Council voted 3-1 in a special meeting Wednesday to approve a new three-year contract for the city’s three (soon to be four) electricians, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The electricians are the highest paid hourly workers on the city payroll and will receive 2 percent increases on the next three July 1s. The new top tier wage will be $30.67 per hour once the new contract kicks in on Sunday. That wage will rise to $31.28 next year and $31.91 in 2020, the last year of the contract.
In contrast, Councilman Jerry Church, who was an electrician for the city in the 1960s was paid $1.75 an hour.
Changes were made to the electricians’ clothing allowance, as follows:
New hires get a one-time payment of $1,100 to be used to buy “PPE/Fire-Rated clothing.” That is unchanged from the previous contract. Employees will receive an allowance of $800 per year (up from $720 in last contract) to be kept on account with the city in their names “to be used to purchase uniforms and Carhartts.” An additional $150 per year will be added to each employees account to be used to purchase work boots.
Changes were made relative to paid sick time, too. Any sick time an electrician accumulates beyond 500 hours will be paid off at 50 percent of his regular hourly pay every August. So, for example, if an electrician at top of pay scale has 600 hours of sick time at the end of this month, he’ll receive about $1,500 on first payday in August, and his sick time will revert to 500 hours.
The city will make a longevity payment to electricians who have completed five or more years of service in the Electric Department as of July 1, based on their current rate of pay for 2,080 hours of straight time (not including overtime). They get 1 percent in the first check of each of the next three Augusts. That would be about $628 for an electrician at top of pay scale.
City Manager Kurt Giles said Kipp Krenz of the Department of Public Works will move to the Electric Department next week, where he will be an apprentice. The move, Giles said, is necessary because one or more current electricians are approaching retirement, and it takes four years to fully train a replacement.
As a consequence, the city plans to hire a replacement for Krenz at the DPW.
Voting in favor of the new contract were councilmen George Kubin, Jerry Church and Tom Reed. Mayor Jim Kelly was unavailable due to a prior commitment.
Allen votes against
Mayor Pro-Tem Melissa Allen was the sole vote against the contract. This reporter asked why, and she responded by email like so:
“My reasoning for voting no is in no reflection whatsoever of the quality of work our Electrical Department gives the city. They are a very efficient and knowledgeable group of employees! My decision is based more on the general budget for the city. Our costs to run the city continue to go up for so many reasons—reasons that are out of our control. For example: Fees generated by the state or federal governments, costs of supplies, gas, utilities, wages, health insurance, etc. Not to mention the thousands of dollars in attorney fees in union contract negotiations. I feel that our employee benefit package, partnered with the current wage/rate structure, is elevated for our small community. We all want to make more money; that’s natural. It is highly unlikely to roll wages backwards, even though I’ve met with many people that have experienced that with their own employers. The cost of living in St. Louis is reasonable, from what I can see, compared to neighboring communities. Our staff/employees are dedicated to giving their best for the residents and business owners of St. Louis every day! I am one voice, trying to balance what’s best for the future of St. Louis with employee appreciation and acknowledgement.”