A new contract between New Albany and employees who are part of a local chapter of the United Steelworkers union will cost slightly more due to a wages increase.

The contract, effective Aug. 1 through July 31, 2020, was approved Aug. 15 by New Albany City Council and ratified Aug. 28 by employees in the Local 9110 unit. The contract includes 12 maintenance workers and one mechanic.

The cost to the city for the duration of the three-year contract is $3,593,144, which is an estimated $130,588 increase over the previous contract, which had a total approximate cost of $3,462,556.

Employees will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase retroactive to Aug. 1, a 2.5 percent wage increase Jan. 1, 2018, and a 2 percent wage increase Jan. 1, 2019. They will receive a 1 percent wage increase July 1, 2019.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, bargaining-unit employees will receive the same wage increase, if any, as city employees not in a bargaining unit.

City Manager Joe Stefanov said city officials liked this provision because if a recession were to happen and cause a reduction in city income, the city would have the option to not give any raise. Many communities during the last recession were stuck with contracts stipulating wage percentage increases and had to either cut services, lay off people or increase taxes, he said.

"I think it's helpful to the city, and it was something that the union was agreeable to," Stefanov said.

The initial 2.5 percent wage increase, Stefanov said, addresses the fact that the USW employees hadn't received a pay increase since Jan. 1, 2016. Their contract expired Oct. 31, and other city employees got a 2.5 percent wage increase in 2017. The first wage increase retroactive to Aug. 1 applies a similar wage increase to employees within this bargaining unit, he said.

Employees also will receive a lump sum of $1,750 upon signing the contract.

The lump sum, Stefanov said, is meant to partially compensate them for the wage increase they could have received at the beginning of November.

The contract also doubles the contributions employees make to their health insurance premiums, from 5 to 10 percent, Stefanov said.

Employees "overwhelmingly passed" the contract, said Teresa Hartley, USW staff representative for the local 9110 unit.

The contract was the second version employees gave the city for consideration, Hartley said. Disagreements over wages necessitated a mediator, which resulted in the second version of the contract, she said.

Hartley said she was frustrated with council members for passing over the first contract.

The employees represented by the union are the ones who work to uphold the city to its expected image, she said.

"That doesn't come with no work behind it," she said.

Although union members had pushed for fair-share language -- which would require members who don't pay dues to pay a fee deducted from their paychecks for union benefits -- council members would not approve the addition, Hartley said.

The New Albany employees represented by the union include 10 dues-paying members and three who do not pay dues, Hartley said.

"They're getting all the benefits as our dues-paying members for nothing," she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah