Warren approves employee raises

WARREN – City Council unanimously voted Thursday to approve 1.5 percent annual pay increases, but also upped the employees’ share of health benefits.

“Our goal was to make sure any wage increase would be offset by changes in health care plan design changes,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.

The council approved three-year contracts for its police patrolmen, firefighters, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees unions. Wage and benefit changes were the same across all the contracts.

Some city employees for the first time now will be required to pay premiums in their health care packages and some of the services provided will be limited.

Council Finance Committee Chairman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, initially suggested that council likely would not pass the contract by emergency measure because of the raises being provided to employees.

“While we did have questions, the administration was able to answer all of them,” Colbert said. “We questioned whether the city could afford paying the increase over the duration of the contract and was assured the city could.”

Colbert said there it was clear there was nothing new they would have learned in the next two weeks that would change their votes.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, emphasized the unions and the city worked to develop contracts that provided benefits for both sides.

Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the city is still negotiating contracts with the city’s police gold union, which represents the upper management of the police department, and the city’s management union. The police dispatcher union reopened its contract.

Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, called the combined contracts a good deal for the city because the employees have to pay premiums out of their paychecks for their health care and they are receiving raises.

Firefighter John Jerina called the four months of negotiations for the contract tough but fair.