On if these 1.5 percent raises are problematic, considering the city’s current financial standing:
Murray: At the point in time that the city last negotiated with the three unions, other cities were giving raises, in some cases significantly higher raises. The city could have taken a zero-raise position, but the way that arbitration works, if the unions were demanding say 3 percent raises, and the arbitrator’s assessment was that (this was) the average for comparable communities, we might well have been stuck with 3 percent raises. You might not like the system, but it’s not for a city to change it, and we would be ignoring it at our fiscal peril.
Brady: In the private sector, when employees accept a position, show up to work every day and provide value to their employer, there is a reasonable expectation that their future compensation will increase. That has not been the case in our local government. As a commission, we are trying to turn that around by increasing our revenues and then be in a position to share that success with our employees.
On if the raises are too much, in terms of percentages:
Murray: As it is, the raises have been at or below inflation, meaning that wages have essentially been flat to falling in real dollars.
On why the raises are occurring now:
Murray: The manager (former city manager Nicole Ard, who was fired for failing to perform her job responsibilities two months ago) should have convened the benefits review committee to meet to address this during 2013. But that never happened, and so we are doing it now, and I would add that we are doing so with the support of the city’s audit and finance committee, a hawkish group when it comes to city dollars.
Brady: The evaluation of these employees was the responsibility of the city manager, and it never got done. There is a process in place to review these employees’ compensation and make a recommendation to the commission.
On why raises are occurring when the city constantly loses staff:
Murray: The staffing reductions are the direct result of the state cutting our funding. The message to taxpayers is that Columbus is keeping more of our taxes for its purposes and cutting off (funding for) local governments. Sandusky has been managing this slow crisis by proactively working with our unions rather than getting slammed by an arbitrator with still higher increases and poor labor relations. Good labor relations have many positive consequences, including resourcefulness and productivity.
On if the union raises and later the nonunion employees receiving a boost in pay are a case of “two wrongs make a right,” when considering the city’s financial state:
Murray: I don’t think this is a case of two wrongs make a right. I think it is a case of consistently making the right decision. If we are going to attract and retain people of this quality, we have to at least make sure that inflation does not mean that they make less this year than last.
Brady: I criticized the negotiated 1.5 percent increase for three years to our unions last year. I simply looked at this as spending money that we did not have. I was wrong.