Union ratifies a new labor contract with Vancouver

131 to get small raises; city to save on health care costs

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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A new labor contract between the city of Vancouver and its fourth-largest employee group includes small pay increases, a one-time $1,000 per full-time employee payment and a reduction in the cost of health care to taxpayers.

The contract, ratified Monday night with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, is largely similar to a wave of those approved in the past two months with other major city unions.

The 131 OPEIU members will get a 1.5 percent raise next year and another in 2013, followed by a 2 percent wage increase in 2014. The contract does away entirely with cost-of-living raises. They also will receive a one-time payment of $1,000 before the end of the year. In 2013, they will be eligible for a one-time payment of 2 percent, based on performance.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2012, OPEIU members currently enrolled in city medical and dental plans will transition to a medical benefits trust format. Workers will join the Western States Health and Welfare Fund of the OPEIU Trust and the trust will provide health care coverage.

In 2012, the city will pay the trust $1,084.31 for every OPEIU member enrolled in medical and dental plans. In 2013 and beyond, the maximum city obligation

will be calculated using the previous year’s city contribution plus 5 percent. Union members will pay any premium increases larger than 5 percent — likely halving the city’s costs. Health care costs are projected to grow anywhere from 10 to 14 percent, City Manager Eric Holmes said.

OPEIU includes such positions as office staff and engineering technicians. The union has the city’s lowest average wage, with members earning an average of $46,937 in 2010.

Contract talks remain open with the 172-member police guild; eight police command union members; six fire command union members; and six fire marshals.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, http://facebook.com/reporterdamewood,http://twitter.com/col_cityhall or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.