“We hope to get it knocked out in the next couple of (negotiating) sessions,” said Anthony Oliva, president of Local 3442 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents 70 to 80 people who work for the city at its Service Department, City Hall, Parks and Recreation Department, the city senior center and the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“It’s going good all around,’’ he said. “The city is being fair, and we’re being reasonable as well.”
Talks between the city and union representatives began in early December as soon as the city had reached terms on a new two-year package with firefighters that called for 4 percent raises in 2013 and a 2 percent raise this year.
The union’s members are working under a two-month contract extension that runs to Feb. 28. The extension was approved in December by City Council as the local’s three-year contract expired Dec. 31.
“Weather has definitely played a role in slowing down talks,” Oliva said. “I guess this is a bad time of year to negotiate.”
Both sides have exchanged initial proposals, but Oliva declined to get into specifics.
“We’ve taken what the city offered, and they’re doing the same, and both of us are considering them,” Oliva said.
Oliva said the city’s initial offer is smaller than what the union requested in its initial proposal.
“That’s to be expected,” Oliva said. “You don’t go in with just what you want. You always ask for higher at first. Anybody who is bargaining does that.”
Mayor David Gillock also declined to discuss specifics.
“It’s going well so far,” Gillock said. “I think we’re getting close.”
One of the major items the mayor has said he wishes to secure in all employee contracts is an increase in workers’ share of health insurance from 10 percent to 12.5 percent. The same increase was negotiated with firefighters in November.
“We know they want all (bargaining) units to be on the same page,” Oliva said.
The proposed hike in employee insurance costs is being discussed with AFSCME members, but Oliva did not say how it is being viewed by employees.
Another negotiating session has not been set.