Berkeley leaders have approved new labor agreements affecting more than half of the city’s workforce.
The City Council signed off last week on agreements with three labor unions, as well as a commitment to raise the pay of unrepresented workers. All told the deals cover over 900 of Berkeley’s about 1,400 workers, ranging from staff at after-school programs to firefighters to the city’s future police chief.
“I’m pleased that we were able to complete this round of labor negotiations,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said during a brief special council meeting Thursday to approve the agreements. Arreguín said the deals “provide fair contracts and fair wages for our employees in recognition of all the hard work they’ve done this past year on the front lines, serving our community during a global pandemic, and the work they do on a regular basis serving our community.”
Andrea Mullarkey, a librarian and shop steward for SEIU Local 1021, the largest of the unions involved in this summer’s negotiations, came away from the process with mixed feelings.
The union, which represents 533 workers, pushed the city to hold its negotiations in public forums and post bargaining documents publicly, rather than meeting behind closed doors.
That unusually public process produced a contract that raises workers’ wages by 7% over three years, with 3% raises in each of its first two years followed by a 1% raise in the third. In what Mullarkey called “a huge win” that will reduce differences in take-home pay between employees who do the same jobs, the city also agreed to reduce an 8% contribution that workers hired since 2013 have had to make toward their pensions, eventually eliminating the contribution in the contract’s third year.
The city made the same pay and pension changes in its agreement with Public Employees Union Local 1, which represents 174 professional and managerial workers.
But Berkeley officials turned down other concessions requested by SEIU Local 1021 — workers’ raises won’t be tied to inflation, nor will the city extend healthcare coverage to union members who don’t currently receive benefits.
“This is another contract where we won’t keep up” with the rising cost of living in the Bay Area, Mullarkey said. “We will be further behind when we start again.”
The SEIU Local 1021 contract will cost Berkeley $15.7 million, according to the city, while the Public Employees Union Local 1 contract will cost $7.7 million.
The city also reached an agreement on a new contract with the Berkeley Fire Fighters Association, providing 6% raises over two years, among other provisions. Following the passage of Measure KK last year, the contract also eliminates the city’s residency requirement for firefighters. It is set to cost the city $2.9 million.
For the 101 Berkeley workers who are not represented by a union, the City Council approved and agreed to provide 8% raises over the next three years.
The council also agreed to bigger pay hikes for its next police chief and assistant city attorney, two top positions that are currently vacant. City staff said the current salary ranges for those positions were “significantly below market” and could hamper recruitment efforts; the police chief pay range will rise by 14.7%, while the assistant city attorney range will increase by 25.6%.