SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday night approved a contract with the Public Works union and passed a resolution outlining steps the city will take over the next two years to become more environmentally sustainable.
Public Works and bus employees have been working without a contract since 2009.
City Manager Jim Gailey said negotiations were delayed by a mandate from the Maine Labor Relations Board that bus drivers be removed from the bargaining unit and form their own union.
Attorney Robert Bower, who represented the city in negotiations, said the separation was ordered because the job duties and work rules of the two groups are different.
“They really struggled with that for a long time,” Bower said. “Once the bus piece was taken out, it really greased the skids.”
Bower said the city will begin negotiations with the new bus drivers union, representing 11 employees, in September.
The three-year Public Works contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2009, and will end on June 30, 2012, does not include a cos-of-living raise for employees.
However, Gailey said there is a clause that will allow the 31-member union to reopen the contract next July to negotiate a raise.
The contract also establishes a labor relations committee, consisting of three union representatives and three managers.
Bower said in a memo to the council the group will meet at least twice a year to work collaboratively to address labor issues, but will not be a substitute for the formal grievance or negotiations processes.
Councilors on Monday were pleased that a contract was finally before them, after a year-long delay.
“It always worries me when these hang out there,” Councilor Maxine Beecher said.
Councilors also approved a 5 1/2-page resolution, committing the city to a series of steps over the next two years to create and implement policies that encourage environmentally sustainable practices.
Councilor Tom Blake, who originally sought to create a ordinance requiring energy-efficient certification for city building projects, said he has warmed to the resolution, which he hopes will be included in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
“It has some clout to it. It has some benchmarks we can actually meet,” Blake said. “I’m just excited we have been able to reach an accord here. This is an important bible we will be using for years to come.”
The resolution calls on the city to create an “environmentally preferable” purchasing policy for all city departments as well as three other projects to improve environmental sustainability by the end of this fall.
This spring, the city will prioritize capital projects using information provided by a city-wide energy audit that should be completed this fall.
The city will also create a Climate Action Plan in the spring. By fall 2011, a policy will be created to provide incentives for city employees to leave their cars at home and commute to work by another means at least two days a week.
The resolution also calls for quarterly progress reports to be given to the council.
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