The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago announced yesterday that it has wrapped up negotiations to renew contracts with unions at the district, and will provide employees with a 3.5 percent wage increase.
Though the move comes at a time when private-sector employers are instituting widespread wage freezes and layoffs, the MWRD says the raises called for in the new contracts were necessary to attract good employees.
“Our main goal is to remain competitive in the marketplace so we can continue to attract top-quality engineers and finance professionals and tradespeople," says agency spokeswoman Jill Horist. "We’re a very lean agency to begin with. We haven’t had to make any lay-offs.”
The contracts apply to MWRD employees who are members of the National Conference of Fireman and Oilers, Local 7, State and Municipal Teamsters and Chauffeurs, Local 726, and other unions.
A patrol boat operator in the Fireman and Oilers, Local 7, will earn an hourly wage of $34.46, effective June 1, 2008 and see that wage increase by 3.25 percent for the next two years to $36.74 in July 2010. A material handler laborer in that same union will begin the contract at $28.63 and increase to $30.52 in July 2010.
A plumber foreman in the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’, Local 130, will earn $46 per hour.
The new wage rates are retroactive to July 2008 and expire in June 2011.The wage increase will also apply to most non-union employees in the district.
District officials say healthcare premiums were increased to reflect the rising costs of healthcare.
“We had to make some changes to health insurance to be able to afford benefits at this level and remain competitive with some of the external agreements out there,” says Ted Kosowski, labor negotiator for MWRD.
“We’re happy that we’ve produced something that is fair and equitable for the employees and cost-effective for the district with regard to taxpayers,” says Kosowski.
Jennifer Slosar is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She covers environmental issues for the Daily News