A discussion on approving raises for public works and water/wastewater laborers was table at the Watseka City Council Tuesday night on advice of counsel.
The aldermen had discussed raising the laborers pay to $19/hour starting May 1.
City Attorney Joe Cainkar said he has not yet heard back from the union representatives and advised the council to wait until that correspondence has arrived.
“We can’t do it yet,” Cainkar said. “We haven’t heard back from the union yet.”
“Why do we have to wait on them?” Alderman Dennis Cahoe asked.
“Because you’re going to get an unfair labor practice if you do something without their approval,” Cainkar said.
Cahoe asked what the hold up is.
“We’re waiting on the lawyers for the union to get back to us to say ‘yeah, it’s OK, go ahead and do it’. I expect that they will do that.”
Cainkar said, “The workers will be paid. I’m just telling you not to do that right now.”
Alderman Benny Marcier said, “You’re telling me they are going disapprove of a wage increase?”
“I’m saying that it is their prerogative to bargain for their employees and if you do increase their wages without engaging with them they will file an unfair labor practice,” Cainkar said.
Cahoe asked Cainkar if he has ever heard of that happening and Cainkar said he has.
“Really? We give them a plus benefit and they want to file unfair labor practice?” Cahoe said.
“If you start something they may say they want to bargain over this order that. If you open negotiations they have the right to bargain over anything. So what we are doing is getting ahold of them and saying “will you be OK with this? We don’t want to talk about the rest of the contract but if you’re OK with it we’ll do it. If not, then good enough. That’s my advice. You can do what you want,” Cainkar said.
Alderman Brandon Barragree asked when the city might hear back from the union. Cainkar said he thought it would have been Tuesday.
The council agreed to table the matter until the union responds. “If it ends up June 1, then it will be retroactive,” Mayor John Allhands said.