Problem Identification:
The City’s existing labor contracts are dated agreements with innumerable terms and conditions that were conceived and agreed to during times when the City government confronted very different operational challenges.

Recommended Action:
Update the City’s outdated labor contracts to reflect modern-day organizational and operational realities.

Cost Savings, Organizational, Revenue Enhancement, Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:

Estimated Annual Impact:
Cannot be Estimated

Estimated Implementation Costs:
Not Determined

Barriers to Implementation:
City government and organized labor mindsets preference to incremental change; a currently overburdened Office of the Labor Commissioner.

Projected Implementation:
1 – 2 years

Next Steps:
Systematically review all of the City’s existing labor contracts and prioritize the agreements that are most in need of a comprehensive overhaul. Work with the leaderships of the City’s unionized workforce, outside of the annual negotiating processes, to update contract terms and conditions to make them responsive to the City’s current needs.

Personnel salaries and associated benefits are by far the greatest cost of operating the City of Baltimore’s municipal government. The following figures provide an overview of the City’s personnel-related expenditures:

FY2000 City of Baltimore appropriations
(Not including monies appropriated for capital improvements and debt service)
$1,327.0 million
FY2000 City of Baltimore salary expenditures
$564.1 million
FY2000 City of Baltimore other personnel cost expenditures
$133.5 million
Total Personnel-Related Expenditures
$ 697.6 million

All told, over 52.5 percent of the City’s FY2000 appropriations (excluding monies appropriated for capital improvements and debt service) went for personnel-related costs.

The vast majority of the City’s nearly $700 million in personnel-related costs is tied to the terms of formal labor contracts between the City and 11 unions and associations. The City’s Office of the Labor Commissioner serves as the professional labor relations liaison between the municipal government and its multiple employee collective bargaining units. The office has an annual budget of less than $800,000 to support a staff of six (three professional staff and three administrative staff) and all related professional services costs. Given the Office of the Labor Commissioner’s modest staffing contingent and the volume of work it is responsible for, it should come as little surprise that most contract terms and conditions go unaltered from year-to-year. The practice of negotiating annual labor contracts, furthermore, limits the City’s ability to perform long-term budgetary planning as the City’s single largest cost varies every year.

While determining the extent of annual wage increases commands the most of attention in annual contract negotiations, there exist a number of other significant terms and conditions related to leave usage (vacation, holiday, sick, funeral, military, disability, etc.) and pay differentials (hazardous conditions, night differential, out-of-class, etc.) that play significant roles in ultimately determining the City’s aggregate labor costs. For example, the payment of a night differential to the City’s firefighters may have made sense in an era when Fire Department personnel spent nearly 60 hours a week in their fire stations, but the advent of the four-shift schedule, with 42 hours of work every eight days (two 10-hour day shifts and two 14-hour night shifts followed by four days off from work) draws into serious question the necessity of the payment of a night differential. Finally, the payment of premiums for work that involves entering ‘manholes’ or ‘excavated trenches’ appears unusual.