Ryan Young reports

With pay raises on the table, city workers debate whether it is enough

An Atlanta plan to give some city workers more money in their paychecks, has hit a snag: city workers.

At a special called meeting of the Atlanta City Council, union heads testified that a salary increase proposal floated last week that would give raises of up to 3 percent to some city workers is inadequate.

Last Friday, Mayor Kasim Reed announced a $2.7 million plan to give 1 percent raises to all employees earning less than $60,000, including sworn police and fire personnel.

His recommendation also calls for a 3 percent raise for all classified employees — a majority of city workers — who make as much as $61,000 a year. Employees making more than $60,000 and are not considered classified would not get raises.

Gina Pagnotta-Murphy, president of the Professional Association of City Employees, and Ken Allen, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, are calling for raises of at least 5 percent, or a plan to steadily increase salaries.

“Anything less than 5 percent is not a raise,” Pagnotta-Murphy said. “It is reparations.”

Not lost in the discussion was the fact that after the November election a 50 percent pay raise for all city council members will go into effect.

“We have come to terms with you doing what you had to do to make yourself sustainable,” Pagnotta-Murphy told the council. “All I am asking is for you to work with us to make us sustainable.”

The council would have to approve any raises, which would be included in the $539 million 2014 fiscal year budget. Although no official action took place at the meeting, Councilman C.T. Martin proposed forming a negotiating committee to meet with Reed about the raises.

“This is not about what we can do or what (Reed) can do, but what we can all do together,” said Martin, who would be joined on the committee by Aaron Watson, Keisha Bottoms and Howard Shook. “It will be a back and forth.”

Walking out of Thursday’s meeting, Allen said he was satisfied but cautious about the steps taken.

“Forming a committee could not have been a better way to move forward,” Allen said. “This is the only way we can find a decent resolution.”

Thursday’s meeting was packed with city workers, including several police and firefighters who stood in the back of the room while the raises were being discussed. Several times the crowd broke out into loud cheers as their leaders fought for more money. Earlier, a crowd of mostly wives of officers protested outside city hall.

In 2011, Reed gave police and fire personnel 3.5 percent raises. That budget, Reed’s first, also included a one-time $450 bonus for most other city employees.

But Allen and other police officers say the raises have never been reflected in their paychecks because of cuts to their pension funds and increased security and medical costs.

Allen said his hourly wages have not gone up since 2007.

“It certainly did not meet my standard and it certainly did not show up on my paycheck,” Allen said.

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