Vandalia public works employees plan to strike if no agreement reached with city

The city of Vandalia said Friday it’s working to come to an agreement with public works employees after their union filed a notice of intent to strike.

The Teamsters Local Union No. 957 plans to strike Tuesday if their is no agreement, according to Alan Weeks, recording secretary/business agent for the union, which represents 18 employees.

“These talented and hardworking employees are the people who plow our snow, fix water main breaks in zero-degree weather and keep our community beautiful,” Vandalia City Manager Dan Wendt said in a statement. “As a Vandalia resident, I am thankful for the work they do. As city manager, I am committed to seeing them compensated appropriately and generously. Our wage proposal reflects this commitment. I know they want to work, and I am hopeful we can reach an agreement and avoid a work stoppage.”

The city has been working to come to a collective bargaining agreement since October, it said. The city’s offer would result in average salary increases of 5.96% in 2022, 2.55% in 2023 and 2.27% in 2024 for Vandalia’s public works technicians, mechanics and office managers in the Public Works Division at 97 Clubhouse Way, according to the city. Starting salaries would be up to $21 an hour and the average wage would be up to $26.84.

The Teamsters are asking for an average wage increase of 24.05% for the first year of the agreement followed by an average increase of 6.28% and 5.46% for 2023 and 2024 respectively, according to the city.

“The dispute is not over what is being offered, it’s about what is being taken away,” Weeks said Friday, claiming that the city has attempted to add language into a tentative agreement which would “take more benefits away from the employees.”

Issues include a discrepancy in what qualifies as overtime, Weeks said, as well as the city’s alleged refusal to consider a new insurance benefits plan for the union employees.

“If we use comp time, which is paid time (off), to go to a doctor’s office for a couple of hours and come back to work after, and if we then have to work on Saturday, (the city) wants two of those Saturday hours to be straight-time instead of overtime pay to make up for the time spent at the doctor,” Weeks said.

Weeks also clarified that the request for a 24.05% wage increase in the first year of the agreement would apply to only three or four of the union’s represented employees.

“(The 24.05% increase) was requested in order to catch these employees up from a low rate of pay,” he said. “They’re losing employees, so this is to catch up the lower end to where they won’t keep quitting.”

Weeks claimed the street department in particular has had an increased turnover rate within recent months, and said increasing wages may offset this.

Vandalia administrators said they have developed a contingency plan for the continuation of services in the event of a strike, including utilities and trash collection.