Contracts reflect the economy

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board October 23, 2013 08:30 am

Baker City’s new contracts with its three labor unions are reasonable deals that reflect the economy and the city’s budget situation.

These three-year pacts with the police, fire and public works unions are quite different from the five-year contracts they replace.

And rightfully so.

The previous contracts included annual pay raises ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent. That seemed appropriate when the contracts were ratified in 2008. But when the economy went into a tailspin later that year, and many city residents in the private sector had their pay frozen or lost their jobs, those raises seemed awfully generous.

Five years later the economy has improved, but only marginally.

The city had no choice but to slow the growth of employee salaries and benefits, which account for about 70 percent of the budget. These new contracts do that, with annual raises ranging from 1 percent to 1.5 percent. The city also has switched to higher-deductible, lower-premium health insurance plans.

Unlike many cities, Baker City hasn’t had to lay off workers. These new labor contracts should help the city remain on the right side of the ledger.