The Hillsdale City Council approved the renewal of two union con­tracts amid a dis­agreement over worker ben­efits at its meeting this week.

During the review of union con­tracts with the Team­sters Local 214 and the Inter­na­tional Broth­erhood of Elec­trical Workers Local 876, Coun­cilman Greg Stuchell sparred with Public Ser­vices Director Jake Hammel over worker benefits. 

The new Team­sters con­tract equalizes pay scales and increases wages over mul­tiple years, according to the Team­sters con­tract. Wages will increase by $1 per hour in the first year. In the second and third years, wages will increase by 2.5% and 3% respec­tively. The con­tract also insti­tutes paid days off for new hires instead of spe­cially cat­e­go­rized sick and vacation days, pro­vides a $750 signing bonus, and offi­cially rec­og­nizes Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Stuchell said he saw no need to increase wages, as he believes city employees already have gen­erous ben­efits packages.
“When you look at how they pay with vacation and sick time, those are extremely gen­erous,” Stuchell said. “These hourly wage increases are costs that are extremely expensive in the long run.”

Hammel said he has lost several workers to more com­pet­itive employers.
“Aside from vacation, we can talk about hourly wages,” Hammel said. “I’ve lost people to Walmart Dis­tri­b­ution Centers. I’ve lost people to Martinrea.” 

The council approved the Team­sters Con­tract 7 – 1, with Stuchell voting against it. Mean­while, the council approved the Inter­na­tional Broth­erhood of Elec­trical Workers con­tract, which passed 8 – 0.

The changes to the IBEW con­tract remained largely the same as the Team­sters con­tract, aside from a variety of per­centage increases in annual wages for dif­ferent clas­si­fi­ca­tions of jobs.

Mayor Adam Stockford said the city risked losing elec­trical workers if the con­tract was not competitive. 

“With the exception of police officers, this is the one position that we are con­stantly in danger of losing our skilled tech­ni­cians,” Stockford said. 

Board of Public Util­ities Director Chris McArthur said the BPU workers deserved their paycheck.
“I think we’ve seen these guys earn their pay­check in the last three storms,” McArthur said.

Stuchell said he applauded the elec­trical workers for their hard work during the recent storms. 

“Every job has a dif­ferent clas­si­fi­cation,” Stuchell said. “What these people do is not only hard but extremely dan­gerous. They risk their lives when they’re working.”

Stuchell said the city needed to develop a retirement pension system to encourage workers to con­tinue working in the city.
“We need to think about some kind of golden hand­cuffs which invest you in the city and it’s not prof­itable for you to leave,” Stuchell said. “At the place I worked at after so many years, you couldn’t make enough money some­place else, so that’s usually your retirement package.”
McArthur said the city had done away with its pension system for the BPU.

“We’ve done away with pen­sions,” McArthur said. “We’ve done away with all this stuff for the new hires. So a lot of that attraction which used to keep people here is just gone.” 

Stockford said it is dif­ficult for small cities to compete against large cor­porate electric companies.

“We are a munic­i­pality trying to compete with the private market,” Stockford said. “Not only that, but we are com­peting against B&T and Con­sumers Energy which are mon­strous, mon­strous com­panies. They raise the rates sky high through com­mis­sions and then expect us to compete with them. They are bas­tards and are dis­gusting to me.” 

The council also pro­claimed Oct. 15 as Preg­nancy and Infant Loss Day to memo­ri­alize lives lost due to preg­nancy com­pli­ca­tions, and approved three special assessment dis­tricts for road recon­struction for the Hill­crest, Riverdale, and Williams Court areas.