MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Thirteen unions for City of Memphis employees are seeking raises.
Union leaders said negotiations have not gone well in past years, and they are trying to come up with a wage solution before a deadline.
Union leaders said retaining skilled workers has been difficult because the wages are not as valuable as they were 10 years ago.
They said wages have gone up about three percent in wage increases in the last 10 years--not enough to keep up with an increased cost of living.
The hope is that a more competitive wage will help the city retain workers it is losing to companies offering more money, such as FedEx.
Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said there is a crisis across the country with people not choosing to become police officers.
He said Atlanta recently gave its police officers a 30 percent raise and he hopes Memphis can look to them for inspiration.
The groups say they want a more consistent and uniform pay increase under Mayor Jim Strickland's administration.
Budget talks are just beginning, but the union reps said Tuesday was about demonstrating a united front.
“We wanted to come together to show the city we are in solidarity,” Williams said.
Set on a backdrop of photos from the Sanitation Strike and Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, 13 unions representing city workers from police, fire, equipment operators and more came together with a message for Mayor Strickland as budget talks intensify.
“It's now time to take care of the people that are taking care of the city,” said Thomas Malone, president of Memphis Fire Fighters Association.
Police officers and firefighters did not get raises last year, but they did get them in previous years.
Strickland's budget, approved by the city council included $2.4 million to ensure all full-time employees make $15.50 an hour.
It also included $1.4 million in targeted raises for employees paid significantly under market value.
“Every year milk goes up, every year eggs go up, but our employee wages stay the same,” said Gail Tyree, executive director of AFSCME.
Tyree said she's pushing for more substantial across the board raises for every city employee to allocate for increases in the cost of living.
“The city has said to us that it will negotiate in good faith and that’s what we are believing will happen,” Tyree said.
Union leaders say workers are leaving the city for the private sector citing better pay and benefits.
They didn’t offer dollar figures at Tuesday’s news conference.
City of Memphis Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden issued this response on Tuesday:
Madden also provided the following information to WMC5:
- Wages are the only item up for discussion during negotiations this year
- Raises are given based on market survey in comparison with comparable cities –we share the market survey with the associations
- The natural growth of our operations budget is $10 million annually (our revenue only increases 1.4% annually)
- To give all City employees a 1% raise costs $4.5M
- Tax incentives for businesses do not come out of the City’s operating budget. In fact, tax incentives usually increase the amount of tax revenue going to the City, even during the incentive period.
- Wages for commissioned officers have seen an increase in pay 5.75%-7.75% in the last 3 years and $2,100 bonus—officers with less than 11 years have seen up to $7,000 bonus
- Commissioned firefighters have seen a pay increase of 6% and $500 bonus in the last 3 years
- Non-represented employees have had increase of 3.5% in the last 3 years
Madden also sent this document with a breakdown of salaries to WMC5: