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Unions sign off on City Council collective bargaining proposal

In a major reversal, Alexandria’s unions are pleased with the direction City Council took on establishing a collective bargaining ordinance at its meeting on Wednesday night.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker introduced amendments to the city’s manager’s proposed plan that expanded the scope of bargaining.

“I’ve expanded the scope of bargaining to include other terms and conditions of employment, including procedures to resolve employee grievances,” Bennett-Parker said at the meeting.

Certain managers, like captains and lieutenants in the police and fire departments, were also added to the bargaining fold, as many supervisors are exempt from negotiating their salaries and benefits.

City staff were asked last month to go back to the drawing board by reengaging with unions and employee organizations on the scope of the proposal, the number of bargaining units and a number of other issues. Earlier this month, Council moved discussion on the proposed ordinance to the special meeting March 17.

“It gives us our voice,” Josh Turner, president of the Alexandria Fire Fighters Inc. and International Association of Firefighters Local 2141, told ALXnow. “I think the amended ordinance proposed by the vice mayor addresses a lot of the concerns that we had with what the city’s staff’s proposed ordinance look like. I think it provides a fair and equitable playing field for negotiating contracts and provides a solid foundational option that gives us the potential for expansion in the future.”

Turner added, “My counterparts I’ve talked to in other labor unions are really happy with it. I think the community is happy with it, too.”

Collective bargaining was made possible with passage House Bill 582 last year, and Governor Ralph Northam postponed its implementation until May 2021 due to the pandemic. The law allowing collective bargaining goes into effect on May 1.

Council will vote on the revised ordinance in April.

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