CONCORD -- After months of tense negotiations, the tug-of-war between the city and its largest union has ended with a deal eliminating a controversial furlough program and restoring pay for city workers for the first time since the economy plummeted.

The City Council unanimously approved the contract with 150 city workers represented by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 856 on March 5.

The package of givebacks begins the return to the higher pay scales of 2008. Pay for the union's members has dropped 14 percent since the economy sank. This contract restores an estimated 10 percent.

The jumps in pay will cost the city $1.15 million over the life of the two-year contract.

"The 10 percent salary restoration contained in the agreement marks the end of concession in the city," said Peter Finn, vice president of the union, which represents workers in numerous Bay Area cities.

Highlights of the two-year deal include:

  • Beginning in 2013-14, employees will be eligible for salary step pay increases, which were previously frozen. All employees are eligible for 2 percent step increases on their anniversary date. The contract also strips City Manager Valerie Barone of the power to determine step movement based on the budget.

  • The city will discontinue the employer-paid member contribution toward employee retirement.

  • Employees will get a 2.54 percent raise in July


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  • Employees in the first retirement tier will receive 41.6 hours of additional paid time off, while workers in the second tier will receive 20.8 hours.

  • The union agreed to drop its unfair labor practice complaint against the city

  • And, perhaps most significantly: The city's furlough program will be eliminated immediately

    The 13-day-a-year furlough program, which began in 2009 and cut employee pay by 5 percent each year, was a sticking point during the latest negotiations. Furloughs applied to all employees except sworn police officers.

    The rift in contract talks began when the 150-member Concord group voted to dump PEU Local One and join the more aggressive Teamsters. Negotiations ended in impasse last year, and the two sides took their cases to a neutral fact-finding panel.

    The new state process allows a union to request hearings before the panel. Concord is believed to be the first city in the state to go through the process.

    The neutral arbiter's nonbinding recommendation included eliminating the furlough program, lifting a freeze on salary steps and offering wage increases to union members -- all of which can be found in the final agreement.

    While union leaders say the fact-finding report had a significant impact on negotiations, city officials say it carried little weight.

    Barone said the contract will increase the number of hours City Hall is open, thereby boosting services for the community.

    "I'm hoping that with this behind us, the relationship between the city organization and the Teamsters that represent our employees will all grow stronger and more collaborative," said Barone, who had been the interim city manager until this week, when she was named to the permanent position.

    Before the council voted 5-0 to approve the contract, council members praised the city and the union for coming to an agreement.

    "I know it wasn't everything they wanted, but I do feel we needed to help them in some ways by undoing the furloughs and step freezes," said Councilman Ron Leone. "I think we came a lot closer to what they are looking for."

    David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.