Union for St. Pete city workers upset at proposal to drop step raises

St Pete City Council
St. Petersburg City Council members (from left) Steve Kornell, Bill Dudley and Jim Kennedy. By Janelle Irwin / WMNF News. March 2013.

St. Petersburg City Council will consider a new budget for final approval Thursday; but the union representing more than 1200 city workers is upset at a proposal by Mayor Rick Kriseman to eliminate annual step increases for employees in exchange for an across-the-board 3-percent raise.

Rick Smith is chief of staff for the Florida Public Service Union / SEIU.

“I think it’s a critical issue. And the reason why steps came into place in the first place was steps were created in the mid-70s with an influx in women in the workforce and minorities, African-Americans, mostly in the City of St. Pete. The step plan was put in there at a certain point to guarantee equal pay for equal work. So for example in the blue-collar steps, you have a period of nine years and then you’re making the same amount of money as the person doing the same job as you. This is really   a critical factor. And if the city wants to talk about changing the way people are compensated we have to have – and this is a must – some implementation which would guarantee equal pay for equal work. If you work in Parks & Rec and you dig a hole, you should get paid the same as the person next to you digging a hole. If you’re a clerk and work in the city building, you should get the same pay. So this concept of equal pay for equal work — that is really the bottom line where we’re coming from. And can we craft an agreement out of that concept? I remain hopeful.”

Smith says he is encouraged that St. Petersburg City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes said they would put the 3% employee raise in the budget plus a little more to deal with the results of contract negotiations.

“A lot of people, 50 people, have been planning on getting probably around an average of a 13% wage increase. That’s gone — taken away. So just on the face of it I don’t know if it’s sound fiscal policy, but it is definitely concessionary.”

City Council will consider the budget during a hearing Thursday beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Listen to the full interview:


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