Portage nears agreement with all union employees

2013-11-23T18:00:00Z 2013-11-23T21:23:12Z Portage nears agreement with all union employeesJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | For the first time in a long time, the city could enter a new year with signed contracts with all union employees.

"We have reached tentative agreements with all represented groups," City Attorney Gregg Sobkowski said last week.

Operating Engineers Local 150 represents employee groups from the streets and sanitation, parks, police and utility departments. Firefighters Local 3151 is the bargaining agent for city firefighters.

This will be the first contract for both parks and utility department employees. Streets department employees and police have been working under evergreen clauses of former contracts. The contract with firefighters does not expire until the end of the year.

Mark Vittetoe, president of Local 3151, said firefighters will meet Monday night to review the proposed contract and hold a ratification vote.

Ed Maher, communications director of Local 150, said last week that he is not aware of any ratification votes by units represented by his union.

Both Vittetoe and Maher described the negotiations with the city as positive.

Sobkowski said Local 150 is preparing a final contract for the units it represents and the city has prepared a firefighters' contract.

Maher confirmed that his group is translating the "conceptual language" of the agreements onto paper. Once that's completed, the proposed contracts will be reviewed again before votes are taken.

Employee groups will hold ratification votes first, Sobkowski said. The city's Board of Works and City Council will then have to vote on the proposals.

Sobkowski said it is hoped that all the votes can be completed by the end of the year.

Details of the contracts won't be made public until they are ratified, those involved said.

If all the contracts are approved by year's end, it will be the first time in many years, if ever, the city enters a year with settled contracts, Sobkowski said. Previously, contracts had staggered expiration dates by design so that multiple negotiations were not going on at the same time, he said.

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