Lower Burrell, public works crew reach deal

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Lower Burrell Council and the city's public works crew have ratified a contract that raises wages 8.5 percent over five years.By a unanimous vote Monday, council ratified the contract, which the 12-member public works bargaining unit had approved Feb. 1.

Councilman Frank Trozzi said health care and salaries were the main issues.

The workers will get a 1 percent raise in the first year and a $1,000 bonus, said Trozzi, who is council's public works chairman.

He said the second-year wages will be frozen. The final three years include a 2.5 percent increase per year.

Trozzi said he did not have a total aggregate cost for the contract.

He said hourly wages for public works employees range from a low of $15.68 for laborers to a high of $25.86 for heavy-equipment operators.

Under the new contract, laborers will see their wages go up by 16 cents per hour the first year; 40 cents the third year; 41 cents the fourth year and 42 cents the fifth year.

That will make the low end of the salary scale $17.07 in the final year.

For the equipment operators, the hourly increases will be 26 cents, 65 cents, 67 cents and 69 cents, making the top salary $28.13 in the final year.

Trozzi negotiated the contract for the city with the bargaining unit's president, Tom Bertocki, two other members of the unit, the president of United Steelworkers Local 1408 and a representative from the international union.

Bertocki said negotiations started earlier than before and reached a deal in five sessions.

“We did everything in- house without any attorneys involved,” he said.

Employees currently contribute 6 percent of their salary toward their health insurance premium. That will stay the same for the contract's first two years.

Trozzi said the employees' contribution rises by 1 percentage point a year for the third, fourth and fifth years of the contract, bringing their contribution to 9 percent by the end of the agreement.

Trozzi said the union proposed a change in the structure of its Highmark plan that will save money.

The city will change from insurance that included zero deductible and high premiums to one with a high deductible and low premium.

The city will pay the deductible.

Still, Trozzi says it saves the city money, because it will be paying the bulk of what will be a lower monthly premium. He said it makes the health care plan cost less for everybody, and the employees still don't pay anything out of pocket.

“If the worker doesn't use all of the deductible that the city would pay, we are going to give them some of that back at the end of the year,” Trozzi said. “So they have some ‘skin in the game' — some incentive to stay healthy.”

“At this point, it looks like a ‘win-win' in regards to us getting our hands around the cost of health care,” he said.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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