Both the city and the Boulder Municipal Employees Association, which represents more than 400 people all paid hourly, most full-time, working across almost every city department hailed the agreement as a mutual victory. The union declared an impasse in June after more than 60 hours of negotiations produced no resolution on a series of key issues, including the rate at which employees earn raises, overtime pay and sick leave. An agreement reached Tuesday night favors Boulder’s proposal by decreasing the employee raise schedule, detailed in a “merit matrix” that specifies percentage increases workers can expect to earn based on various levels of evaluated performance. But the city had sought to eliminate overtime pay for workers who come in for extra time after being out sick or on holiday earlier in a given week, and to implement a new system for sick leave that would require employees to qualify for short- and long-term disability. The union took offense to those proposed changes, and the agreement stipulates that neither will be enacted, and that existing overtime and sick leave policies will remain in place. “We did receive a slight decrease in the merit matrix, but that is part of the compromise,” said union President Olga Gamez. “We did not get everything that we asked for; we did get the majority, and as a president, you have to think about everybody, so you think about the majority.” City Manager Jane Brautigam called the agreement a “win-win.” The results of the negotiation, Brautigam said, “help Boulder maintain its track record of financial stewardship and efforts to achieve equity among work groups while also recognizing the contributions of employees who make positive and meaningful contributions every day.” The impasse was to be settled by an arbitrator, who heard the matter beginning July 19, and was expected to choose one of the two sides’ respective packages as early as Friday. “We’ve been talking in between arbitrations,” Gamez said. “We never stopped talking.” In June, Gamez and several other members of the union negotiating team said they felt disrespected by the city’s then-last best offer. Doris Truhlar, an attorney who has represented the union for 25 years, said shortly after the union declared impasse that “the philosophy has shifted to disregard the well-being of the workers, and to be willing to decrease the standard of living to do other things.” Gamez, who during the impasse said, “We’re not treated as people with any kind of respect or courtesy at all,” spoke Thursday of an “encouraging” shift in tenor leading up to the new agreement.
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