The Waukesha Common Council is asking all city employees – including police and fire union members – to voluntarily agree to a pay freeze, contribute 5.8 percent into their pensions, 12 percent into their health insurance, early retirement packages and/or other monetary concessions.
The council directed city staff to address the issue with the employees on Wednesday and is requesting a response from the employees by Friday in preparation for the next week of budget talks.
Donna Whalen warned that she could not guarantee a response by Friday.
“Unions are organizations,” Whalen said. “It takes time for them to meet and confer with each other.”
The city, which lost millions in state funding, is trying to balance its budget and is coming short after Waukesha alderman tossed out Mayor Jeff Scrima’s supported recommendation for a garbage fee. Although Scrima told Waukesha Patch earlier in the budget process that he would argue against any cuts and pushed for a $136 fee to be added to the tax bills in order to achieve a tax freeze, he is now warning that employees could be laid off if the employees don’t agree to voluntary concessions.
“We must be bold and reasonable,” Scrima said during the meeting. “We are all in this together.”
The mayor issued another budget memo Tuesday afternoon with he has in balancing the budget without a tax freeze.
The employees are in the second year of a three-year contract. The first year included a pay freeze and a 1.5 percent pay increase in 2011 and 2012, although the employees agreed to contribute more toward health care costs in the current contract.
“I am interested in asking the question, finding out the answer,” said Common Council President Paul Ybarra, who motioned to request the voluntary contributions from the employees.
While the motion passed unanimously, Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings had a stern warning about the possible affects the request could have on future negotiations.
“I have found that through my life experience that your word – it means something,” Cummings said. “… What position does that put us in if we are not true to what we say?”
Alderman Duane Paulson, who at one time was a city firefighter, said he was disappointed at the “demonizing” of public employees.
“That is not right,” Paulson said. “I believe that is too much.”