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Talks with unions yield mixed success

Warren City Council ratified a one year extension with one bargaining unit but efforts to strike a similar deal with another have not yet proved fruitful.

Council on Monday approved a one year extension with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who represent city Department of Public works staff as well as clerical and parking staff in the Police Department.

City Manager Nancy Freenock said the city can’t accurately project 2021 revenue — due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic — and said the union agreed to extend current terms for one year. The extension serves as a cost certainty measure. The collective bargaining agreement was set to expire at the end of 2020.

Councilman Gregory Fraser asked if the other unions are considering a similar arrangement.

“(We are) under discussions with the police department at this juncture,” Mayor Maurice Cashman said, indicating there has been “no progress doing the same thing as far as I can see.”

He said there have been two negotiating sessions with them to date and the city hasn’t “really heard back.”

Freenock noted that the arbitrator that settled the contract with the fire department union extended the contract through 2021.

Council was also advised about minimum municipal pension obligations for 2021. Freenock said the total is $731,125 for the city’s three unions. Two went down slightly but the MMO for the police department increased nearly $25,000.

Freenock said she expected the fire MMO to increase if any. Cashman said the computations are “very complicated scenarios.”

“(The) thing (that is) going to hurt us over the next three years,” Cashman said, is the “Fed (Federal Reserve) keeping interest rates near zero.”

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