All bargaining units in Madison Heights receive raises

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 11, 2015


MADISON HEIGHTS — During the Great Recession, municipalities across Michigan tried to save costs by shrinking their workforces or reducing hours. The employees who remained found themselves trying to fill in for colleagues who had been let go or turned from full time to part time. They were doing more work than ever, yet their wages and benefits stayed the same, or in some cases were reduced.

Now the economy appears to be recovering, and the city of Madison Heights has agreed to wage increases for all bargaining units. The city is approaching it cautiously, starting with a little, but officials say the timing is right.

“The bottom line is we appreciate everything the employees do for the city — their dedication and the sacrifices they’ve made. These changes are fair to them and the taxpayers,” said Ben Myers, city manager of Madison Heights. “But we’re mindful that we’re not out of the woods yet, financially, by any stretch. We do anticipate modest growth in our revenue, which we suspect will enable us to afford these wage increases. Emphasis on the word ‘modest.’ The wage increases are definitely reasonable in terms of what we see in comparable communities.”

There are seven bargaining units in the city. All of them are receiving the same raises. The last two bargaining units to settle negotiations were the department heads and the supervisors and assistants. In their case, the last time they received an increase was in 2007.

The new arrangement includes:

• A wage increase of 1 percent for all bargaining unit employees, effective retroactive to July 1, 2015.

• A ratification bonus for all bargaining unit employees equal to 1 percent of the employee’s July 1, 2015, base wage. This bonus will be paid in a lump sum no later than 30 days after the city ratifies the agreement. The bonus is not rolled into the base wage, and not included in pension FAC or other wage-based benefits.

• A wage increase of 2 percent for all bargaining unit employees, effective July 1, 2016.

• Upon ratification, the city’s contribution to the health care service provider for bargaining unit members hired after Sept. 28, 2009, will increase from $100 per month to 3 percent of an employee’s base pay.

City Councilman David Soltis was pleased to see the employees receive raises.

“I consider our employees to be like our constituents. They spend 40-50 hours a week here, so they’re like residents to me. So I want to make sure they’re cared for as best we can,” Soltis said. “I’m so glad to see them get raises after so many years. They went so long without raises, but still did a tremendous job. The quality of their work never decreased — it only increased. I appreciate their loyalty to the city. It’s important we treat them fairly to retain them and keep morale high.

“I’m glad negotiations went well with the unions,” he added. “The unions are critical to working families and the middle class. The last thing I want to see is lower wages for working families.”

City Councilman Bob Gettings said the city is trying to do right by its workers.

“During the recession, the city said they’d do what they could down the road (to restore wages), so the city deserves to be commended since they’re trying to keep that promise,” Gettings said. “I think this is a win-win for everyone. I think all sides did a good job.”

The raises are well-deserved, said City Councilman Robert Corbett.

“We’re happy to be able to reverse the course of wage negotiations from past years and give some increases back to the employees,” Corbett said. “They sacrificed a lot, and they helped the community doing so. Without their sacrifices, we might not have survived the past few years. So the least the community can do is try to return some of those salaries and improve the terms of employment.”

Ed Malak, union president of the Madison Heights Police Officers Association, said the raises were “long overdue,” noting it was 2008 when their union members last received a raise.

“We understand the economy is still recovering and it’s not fully where it needs to be yet, but we appreciate getting the raise,” Malak said. “We feel both sides acted in good faith, and we appreciate we were able to hammer out something for our members who had gone so long without any increase at all. It’s not fully what we want it to be, but we feel we’re working in the right direction.”