Jan 14, 2022 4:24 PM

City manager talks about stalled contract with city employees

Posted Jan 14, 2022 4:24 PM

By ROD ZOOK

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — It’s back to the drawing board for the city and the union representing its service employees after the union’s voting delegation rejected the city’s latest contract offer. City Manager Jeff Cantrell said he understands the current issues involved.

“Anytime you construct or negotiate a contract, nobody wants to give up a position,” Cantrell said. “Even if it’s not an issue, maybe it could become a future issue.” 

Some of the issues the union had with the contract that came from union representative Esau Freeman included what constituted a break from a worksite, which both sides felt needed some clarification, and callback time to work under straight pay versus premium pay. Cantrell says there have been instances where an employee would wait for a short period of time before heading out to a job so that person would get paid premium time or overtime. Cantrell says the issue of overtime is one the city needs to have some control over.

“I believe the employer ought to have the discretion that if somebody has been plowing snow for three days without sleep, instead of going into mandatory overtime or the employee's option of  calling for overtime to continue. I think the employer not only has the duty to make sure that safe operations are maintained and controlling the hours,” Cantrell said. “I think that discretion is appropriate. And if you look at the history of the city, I don’t know if we really have caused any issues in overstepping our bounds.”

The matter was to be on the agenda for Tuesday's city council meeting. Cantrell says the matter will probably stay on the agenda for discussion.

“I think we’ll probably leave it on the agenda for discussion with the governing body if for nothing else just to tell them where we’re at,” Cantrell said. “I don’t think we’re at an impasse, I think maybe both sides just need some additional time. I’ll probably explore the matter further with the labor representative and see what their thoughts are going forward.”

The service employees union represents about 125 city workers, mostly in Public Works and utilities.

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