GARY | The Gary Public Library Board and its employees union reached a tentative agreement Monday to preserve most of the full-time employees within the financially troubled system.
Board President Tony Walker said Monday the agreement means a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut that gets the library's payroll this year within $78,000 of the $1.4 million austerity budget target. The board was forced to adopt the budget because of declining tax revenue.
Gracie Allen, president of Local 2760 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said Monday the union will schedule a vote among its members once it explains the details to them.
"All we wanted is for the budget cuts to be uniform and now everyone is taking a share, not just the union folks," Allen said.
This is in sharp contrast to a week ago when union leaders were faced with a large number of layoffs and reduction of employee hours. Those leaders accused library management of trying to dismantle the union.
Walker said board members, who were not involved in what are supposed to be union-management talks about reorganization, were unaware that union officials had been frozen out of the negotiations by library managers.
He said he and other board members sat down Thursday and again Monday with the union.
"I had been trying to get this done for 18 months, and we did it in six hours. Knowing what I know now, I would have done this a year ago.
"We saved 19 union jobs. The administration executive office people were a little upset with the wage cut, but the fact of the matter is it was obvious to all of us the previous plan was lopsided on the sacrifice," Walker said.
Walker said this will have no effect on the board's decision to convert the main library, 220 W. Fifth Ave., into a cultural center or keep its four neighborhood library branches open.
Walker said the full library board will convene a special meeting March 12 to ratify the agreement.