2021 | Government

Council approves employee raises, union contracts

Last year, raises were rejected, but millions given in hazard pay

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Last year, the Montgomery County Council rejected employee raises, but paid about $89 million in COVID-19 hazard pay.

Now, the Montgomery County Council has approved multiple types of raises for employees for the next fiscal year.

The hazard, or differential, pay was extra compensation for employees who had to work directly with the public, or in an office, during the pandemic. The differential pay began in early April 2020 and ended in mid-February 2021.

Hazard pay was replaced with a deal struck in early March to provide raises for both union and nonunion employees.

Council Member Andrew Friedson was the only member to vote against that $3.8 million appropriation — $3.3 million of which was for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

The remaining $453,000 would be the cost of a 1.5% raise, known as a general wage adjustment (GWA), for all employees, effective on June 20.

But under new agreements for the next fiscal year, the council on April 27 unanimously approved additional raises through collective bargaining agreements with three unions — the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO), Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 35, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1664.

The types of raises included in the agreements include:
● MCGEO: $1,684 increase on the last pay period in June 2022 (FY22 fiscal impact is $348,000 and FY23 impact is $10.4 million)
● MCGEO: 50 cents-per-hour increase for seasonal employees (FY22 fiscal impact is $89,288 and FY23 impact is $89,288)
● FOP: 2.5% GWA on the first pay period beginning after Jan. 1, 2022 (FY22 fiscal impact is $1.4 million and FY23 impact is $2.9 million)
● IAFF: 1.5% in June 2022 (FY22 fiscal impact is $51,547 and FY23 impact is $1.5 million)

According to a staff report, the FY22 fiscal impacts of the raises is “artificially low because they start after the beginning of the fiscal year. Each of these wage increases would be added to an employee’s salary when shown and would continue for all future years.”

Each salary grade’s maximum and minimum salary would permanently increase, the report said.

Employees are also receiving other types of increases, such as service increments. Employees below the top of their employee grades are receiving a 3.5% increase on their anniversary date.

For MCGEO-represented employees, a $600 lump sum payment is being provided to staff members not eligible for a service increment. They will also receive a 1.25% additional raise for any employees who were eligible for a service increment in FY11 that the council did not fund.

The council did not fund service increments for any employees in FY11, FY12 and FY13.

Longevity increases — another type of raise — will go to employees based on the number of years of employment. The increments range from 2.5% to 3.5% for MCGEO and are 3.5% for FOP and IAFF.

The council also took a unanimous straw vote to approve agreement provisions, such as group insurance and allocations for retirement.

County Executive Marc Elrich bargained with the IAFF to introduce future legislation to the council to modify pension benefits or wage adjustments that are contingent on future variations in the Consumer Price Index.

Council staff members advised the council to refrain from agreeing to a provision that is not yet fully developed and is “conditional upon uncertain future events.”

They also advised the council to include in its budget resolution that any provision of emergency differential pay in the next fiscal year would require a supplemental appropriation approved by the council.

On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve an agreement with the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, which includes a proposed increase — between 15% and 28.6% — to the nominal fee for volunteers, for a total of $525 or $900, depending on eligibility.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.