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Members of the Teamsters union voted this week 287-16 to reject a contract offer from the city of Billings.

The city and union will gath-er at the bargaining table again on Aug. 6. Both sides say they have interest in reaching a multi-year contract.

City Administrator Dennis Taylor said he believes the sides are both willing to work hard enough to “find a pathway to a multi-year contract.” But if the city and union cannot pull them-selves out of the dilemma, Taylor said he would be inter-ested in bringing in a mediator.

Teamster Local 190 secre-tary-treasurer Joe Dwyer said he believes the overwhelming vote is enough to push the city toward more movement on the union’s issues. The key points for the Teamsters are longevity; wage rates tied to inflation pro-tection rates; reclassification of airport police, police depart-ment Teamsters and city electri-cians, and a 40 hour work week for full-time Met Transit employees.

Dwyer said the membership has not indicated it would like to move toward strike, although it is a possibility. Plans are always in place so if the membership were to vote for strike, it would not take long to initiate a walk out, he said.

“Our patience and our mem-bers’ patience is wearing thin,” Dwyer said. “We’ve told them all along we had room to move on our issues, but they didn’t want to talk about those issues at all.”

Taylor said the city has made a fair offer that is within its abil-ity to pay under “challenging economic circumstances as we see our property tax base dwin-dle.”

The city’s offer was for a three-year contract that would have resulted in $2.3 million in new spending for the 340-some city workers represented by the union. It would have given union members cost-of-living increases of 3.9 percent this year, 3.2 percent next year and 3.1 percent in the third year.

The city also offered to increase longevity pay by levels that would have cost the city $182,892 over the three-year life of the contract.

The Teamsters, in their latest proposal, had asked for raises of 3.9 percent this year and 3.39 percent in each of the next two years, plus longevity increases that would have totaled $556,217 over three years. All told, Teamster demands would have cost about $3.8 million over three years, according to city estimates.

The city and the Teamsters had been negotiating since April, and when the city pre-sented no new offer during talks last week, the Teamsters put the proposed contract to a vote.

Dwyer said the voting took place throughout the week, via secret ballots administered by shop stewards in the various city departments. The votes were tallied Friday evening at Teamster headquarters in the Heights.

The Teamsters union repre-sents all non-management city employees except the police and firefighters, who have their own unions. Teamsters employed by the city include parking garage attendants, account clerks, maintenance workers, meter enforcement workers, animal control officers, computer oper-ators, electricians, mechanics, heavy-equipment operators, police clerks and dispatchers.

Wages for Teamsters range from $5.95 an hour for beginning library pages to $20.05 an hour for top-scale airport electri-cians. Hourly wages for other Teamsters in their first year include animal shelter atten-dant, $8.60; EMS dispatcher, $9.79; transit operator, $10.29; library technician, $11.83; and airport police officer, $12.56.

The Teamsters have been working without a contract since June 30, when the previ-ous two-year contract expired.

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