(joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

The bulk of Petersburg borough workers and the local government agreed this month to terms of a new labor contract. It will mean wage increases of between two and four percent this year and next as well as other pay hikes for the employees.

The agreement covers most borough workers outside of the electrical department, from police officers, to staffers at the library, parks and recreation, harbor department, public works and some of the local utilities. They’re represented by the Petersburg Municipal Employees Association.

“This was kind of a difficult contract to come to an agreement on, mostly trying to work around all the COVID safety measures that were in place and trying to do it through Zoom and over phones and through emails, it was just really not a good way to go,” said PMEA president Justin Haley. “Both teams tried hard but you know when we got to the table, actually physical table in the same room together, things really kind of came together and worked out great.”

The workers received a short-term extension and two percent wage hikes in the second half of 2020 as talks were delayed by the pandemic.

This new agreement extends through June of 2023. And it gives wage hikes based on the 2020 recommendations of a consulting company the borough hired.

That means wage increases of between two and four percent depending on position for employees who have been on the job for at least a year. Those are effective this past July, meaning the borough will make retroactive payments. And wages will go up the same amount again next year.

Haley said an overwhelming majority voted to ratify this new contract and calls this agreement “a good start.”

“You know I think both sides recognized we can’t make up the differences that we saw in that study in one contract and I know that some people on our side wanted a lot more, some people are way behind and you can’t do it all at once,” Haley said. “It’s a big step, so, it’s a good start and we’re hoping to continue the work next time.”

The borough also agreed to boost the additional pay for working a swing shift or a graveyard shift and to pay more to employees who are on stand-by. They’re sometimes called to the job outside of their scheduled work week. The contract also increases paid time off for the employees.

The borough says the cost of the wage increases and other changes over three years will total $798,747.

Assembly member Jeff Meucci supported the agreement during a meeting this month.

“Like somebody said at an earlier time that we spent $17,000 on a wage study back in 2020 to help make up for some of the disparities in the wages and I think this is the first step to help out,” Meucci said. “I think the borough quite honestly has done a really good job of being fiscally sound. We’ve realized savings in the past several years that have put us in a position of envy to other communities in Southeast. I think this is a very good contract for both the borough and it’s a pretty good contract for the borough employees. I will be voting in favor of this and I just want to thank everybody who was involved in the process.”

It was a unanimous 5-0 assembly vote to approve the contract, with assembly member Taylor Norheim no longer participating in that meeting and Bob Lynn not at the first meeting of the month.

That puts all union workers for the borough under contract. Earlier this year the assembly approved a new three-year pact for electric department employees through the middle of 2024.