With the focus all year on the reduction of collective bargaining rights of unionized government employees, far less attention has been paid to those public workers who are not union-represented — administrators, supervisors, engineers and the like.
In separate actions Tuesday, Wauwatosa moved forward with proposals on pay and benefits for its Fire Department supervisors, and for all other non-union employees other than police supervisors.
In a first proposal, recommended unanimously Tuesday by the Budget and Finance Committee of the Common Council, the six unrepresented Fire Department supervisors — the chief, deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs — would get 3 percent wage increases to keep them in line with union firefighters and officers.
Also, the proposal aims to bring the two groups into balance on health care payments over the next two years. Supervisors had been handed an increase from 3 percent to 10 percent in health care premiums, while the firefighters' union was able to bargain lower payments.
It will take two increases for union members, in both 2012 and 2013, to bring parity on that front, beginning with an increase from 2.75 percent to about 5 percent this coming year.
The position of the state was revised from the original budget repair bill, which retained full collective bargaining rights for police and fire union. By the passage of the final state budget, both union and non-union officers were required to be given equal treatment on pension contributions only.
"Chief (Rob) Ugaste spoke very passionately, I thought," said committee chairman Peter Donegan. "He really lobbied for his six guys — 'Don't penalize them, they've worked really hard.'
"I was very impressed."
Less parity for other employees
Donegan was less impressed with a second proposal covering other non-represented employees and, in the end, took the unusual step for a committee chair of casting the lone vote against it. The plan applies to employees such as managers and supervisors across all departments.
His problem with both the administration's plan and his committee's response: Neither would give those employees enough.
"In the budget, we approved an across-the-board 2 percent pay increase," Donegan said. "This is for people all experiencing about a 10 percent decrease in compensation due to health and pension increases.
"The administration is proposing a 1 percent increase Jan. 1 and another 1 percent on July 1. That's a 2 percent lift in the second half but only a 1.5 percent lift over the year.
"Now, also proposed was an additional .5 percent budgeted based on merit, or for performance-based increases. But the committee moved something other than what was proposed. At the end of the day, the committee approved the separate 1 percent lifts but not the merit increase."
That, Donegan felt, did not offer much incentive to supervisors and managers to improve quality and productivity, which he said in his experience was the only real way to save money.
"I'm disappointed that we can't get more for this group after the move backward by 10 percent ... and I'm disappointed that we aren't farther along with a merit- or performance-based system," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do. I'm upset that we're going into the year without a system to measure productivity."
Despite his misgivings, that proposal also advanced to the Common Council.