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Union forms for city jobs without representation

By Staff | Apr 8, 2009

A new union of city workers formed last week in Cape Coral, but given the city’s financial constraints, some council members have their doubts about whether the union’s 24 members can bargain for a better deal.
Positions that were previously not part of a union that are now eligible to be a part of the “Professional Unit,” as the new union is called, include professional engineers, project managers, marketing and sales coordinator, site plan review coordinator and planning team coordinator.
“Certainly they have a legal right to hold organizational meetings and take a vote,” Councilmember Bill Deile said. “I don’t know if organizing is going to give them any extra benefits.”
Non-union city employees’ salaries held steady this year, whereas raises are part of union contracts.
Meanwhile, city council members are contending with an estimated 35 percent decrease in home values and attempting to cut at least $10 million from the budget.
How exactly the unionization of some city professional workers will affect the overall budget is not clear. City policy is not to discuss union negotiations in public.
“We don’t discuss union negotiations with the media,” city spokesperson Connie Barron said.
Professional Unit representative Wally Ilczyszyn also declined to comment on the formation of the union.
Council members conceded employee costs would be a factor in cutting city spending.
“They have the right to organize and all that, but obviously we always got to consider legacy costs,” Mayor Jim Burch said.
Beyond rampant foreclosures and plummeting home values, increases in the number of city employees and the corresponding cost is also one of the city’s most pressing issues resulting from the recent housing boom and bust.
“One of the more expensive things in the general fund is the payroll,” Deile said.
He added that the benefits and pensions of employees also take their toll.
“(Pensions) are going to be another issue, coming up with limited funds to pay for it,” Deile said.