City leaders approve close to $2M in pay increases for three unionized worker groups, including $650,000 for newly unionized solid waste workers

In this Journal-World file photo from 2013, Charles Barnes, operator of one of the city's automated trash trucks, uses a mechanical arm to lift city trash bins off the street in the Prairie Park Neighborhood.

Expressing appreciation for the results of a long negotiation process, city leaders have approved close to $2 million in pay increases for three unionized employee groups, including the newly unionized solid waste workers.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously as part of its consent agenda to approve agreements with the Teamsters Union Local No. 696, the Lawrence Police Officers’ Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1596. Collectively, the three contracts represent $1.94 million in additional pay for 2022.

Mayor Brad Finkeldei thanked both union representatives and city staff members who worked on the agreements, saying that all three agreements were significant and it was “a great day” for all involved.

“I know they put in lots and lots of hours on all three of the agreements and they’re all very important,” Finkeldei said, noting that all three contracts were multiyear agreements. “These are going to last us for a while, and I appreciate everyone coming together on those.”

Commissioner Stuart Boley also expressed appreciation that all the agreements covered more than one year. Boley thanked those involved for using “interest-based negotiation,” which is a cooperative method of contract negotiation.

“We’re here to serve the residents of Lawrence, and when we can resolve interests using interest-based negotiation, I think that helps everybody,” Boley said. “Hats off to you guys and thanks for the term of the agreements.”

The city’s solid waste workers voted overwhelmingly to unionize under the Teamsters in August 2020, citing concerns about wages and working conditions, as the Journal-World previously reported.

The newly approved agreement under the Teamsters covers the next three years and includes a schedule for annual wage increases based on years of service, a 2.5% overall wage increase for all workers and provisions related to extra pay for taking on additional duties. Taken together, the pay-related provisions of the contract will cost the city an additional $649,000 in 2022.

The commission also approved a two-year contract for the police union and a three-year contract for the firefighters union. The police contract includes a 2.5% general wage increase for those employees and funding for the pay schedule, amounting to an additional $863,000 in pay next year for the employees represented by the police union. The firefighters’ contract also calls for a 2.5% general wage increase and funding for the pay schedule, amounting to an additional $424,000 in pay next year for the employees represented by the firefighters union.

City Manager Craig Owens’ recommended budget accounts for the pay increases in all three contracts, as well as raises for non-union employees, according to a city memo. The recommended budget includes $5 million total in new compensation for all employees. Nonunion employees would also receive a 2.5% general wage increase as part of a two-year plan to bring their compensation to market rates.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the total amount allocated toward employee raises.

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