PORT RICHEY — The City Council passed a new union contract for its public works employees on Tuesday night, but not before the workers got an earful from two council members who voted against it.
The new contract includes a one-time payout to employees worth 1.5 percent of their salary, to help offset the 3 percent pay reduction now that government workers must contribute to the Florida Retirement System. The deal also allows workers to accrue up to 240 hours of sick leave and vacation time based on their years of service.
In addition, the contract includes a longevity bonus of $500 for 10 years of service, $750 for 15 years, and $1,000 for 20 years. The collective bargaining agreement was with the Communications Workers of America, which represents the city's public works employees.
Much of the council expressed concern over the amount of leave time employees can accrue. Council member Nancy Britton decried the fact that the council had not had an opportunity to negotiate with the union prior to the vote, calling it a "slap in the face."
The council had delayed a vote on the contract two weeks ago, after City Attorney Joseph Poblick found the contract in his agenda packet without a chance to review it.
"This is being pushed in our face," Britton said.
Joining Britton in voting against the deal, Vice Mayor Bill Colombo said he didn't like the structure where employee leave time counted toward overtime pay.
Council member Steve O'Neill voted for the contract but still called three weeks of sick time for an employee excessive, and referenced recent contracts with former city managers that held "parachute" deals with extensive leave.
The city's public works unit representative, Salvatore Licari, said the contract mirrors much of the city's agreement with police, and workers should not be held accountable for past city manager contracts.
"I hope the next city manager is here for years, but they come and go, but these people are your cornerstone. They're the ones, like I said, you call them, they're there," Licari said.
Mayor Richard Rober and council member Terry Rowe also voted for the new contract, but Rober said in the future he would call council meetings to discuss proposed contracts before they come up for a vote.