UPDATE 8/26/13 @ 8:40 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams says all bargaining units in the city now have contracts.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 598 ratified a two-year labor agreement, with 63 percent voting in favor of the agreement that Williams says is similar to the previous four-year agreement.
The new agreement does not include any pay increases for the sanitary treatment plant employees and the sanitary sewer workers.
The 34 employees that this agreement affects were working with an expired contract for a year.
Williams says this is the third labor agreement that his administration has negotiated.
Huntington City Council unanimously adopted separate contracts for firefighters represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 289, as well as for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 598. The latter union, which includes public works and administrative employees, hasn’t had a contract in more than five years.
While both city leaders and union representatives admitted the contracts are not perfect, they said they represent a step in the right direction.
“This is a contract in trust,” Councilman David Ball said. “I don’t know how better to explain it.”
Mayor Steve Williams referred to the contracts as “long overdue” two-year agreements that provide protections regarding seniority rights, bumping rights and the employee grievance process – but not necessarily money.
“Is it a perfect agreement? Absolutely not,” Williams said. He went on to say no wage increases are included in the agreement. “Just because we have a few extra pennies jangling in our pocket doesn’t mean we should start handing out wage increases immediately.”
The contracts for both unions will go into effect July 1, 2013, and last through June 30, 2015. Discussions regarding wage issues would occur in January – although, as noted, wage raises are not automatically guaranteed.
The IAFF contract also ensures that the minimum staffing level will remain at 27 firefighters per shift for the next year and then increase to 28 on July 1, 2014.
Ray Canafax, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 289, said the contract is most welcome.
“It’s been a long process to get here,” he said. “It received a favorable vote by our members.”
Last week, the Fire Department union approved the proposed contract by a 50-40 vote.
In other business, Council adopted a resolution to transfer a position of a code enforcement technician/officer from the Division of Inspections and Compliance to the Huntington Police Department. That position involves performing a variety of technical and office duties involving the city code enforcement process.
Williams said it will assist law enforcement with actual enforcement of code violations.
Council members also unanimously adopted a resolution to eliminate the trash division and create a sanitation/trash division within the city’s Public Works Department.
Williams said a proposal to do so happened after residents and city officials saw the positive impact of neighborhood cleanup efforts during the citywide spring cleanup.
“We were happy to see what was occurring, but let’s see it continue on an ongoing basis,” Williams said.