Reading approves 2-year contract with rank-and-file employees

·3 min read

Oct. 13—Reading finalized a new contract with its rank-and-file employees Monday night. The city now has two-year agreements with its four collective bargaining units.

City Council voted 6-1 to approve a two-year contract with AFSCME Local 2763, the union that represents about 170 employees.

The contract is retroactive to January and expires at the end of December 2022. Members will receive a 4% raise in 2021 and 2022.

Councilwoman Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz voted against the contract because she was not shown how the employee raises will be covered by the city when the city only budgeted for 2.5% raises in 2021.

"How do we cover that expense?" Cepeda-Freytiz asked at Monday's committee of the whole meeting.

City Finance Director Jamar L. Kelly said the raises would be covered by the $2.4 million the city saved in 2020 in other areas of the budget.

"I'm always interested in learning how we're able to pay for things," Cepeda-Freytiz said during the council's regular meeting. "I know you told us there's a surplus, but I would like to be shown where the surplus is, where the line item is coming from and how specifically we are paying these increases. Moving forward, I would like details, please."

Cepeda-Freytiz asked for the specific areas of savings, but Kelly did not have that information at the time.

"At least for the last eight years the city has achieved budget surpluses each year, so there's been no deficits," Kelly said. "So, we almost always have savings for the last eight years."

City Council passed its 2021 budget when several of the city's unions were still negotiating contracts. Many of the city employee raises were budgeted for 2.5% in 2021.

"They did not receive that increase," Kelly added. "The bargaining process determines the final percentage and that is 4%. They did not receive the 2.5% council had earmarked."

The city previously approved two-year contracts with its other collective bargaining units. The firefighters received a 3.5% raise in 2021 and 2022; the police officers received a 4.5% in 2021 and 2022; and the city's supervisors received a 4% raise in 2021 and 2022.

Council also voted 6-1 to pass an ordinance that creates a defined contribution plan for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2022.

Cepeda-Freytiz cast the lone no vote.

"This is such an important piece of business to move forward to look at moving out of Act 47," said Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz. "We have seen the struggles with our past pension plans. It does not put us in a good financial position to do what we've done in past practice. This is probably one of the more important things we will be voting on to ensure the city's financial stability in the future."

The city will match up to 5% of an employee's contribution to the plan for the first three years. After that, the plan is subject to negotiation, city officials said.

Mayor Eddie Moran's administration also requested tabling a proposed ordinance to prohibit employees hired on or after January 1, 2022, from participating in the city's pension plan.

Managing Director Abraham Amoros said there needed to be more internal meetings.

The ordinance, as written, would not prohibit the city's police officers and firefighters from the participating in the pension plan.

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