Raises proposed at MID; 2 on board express concerns

jholland@modbee.comJuly 15, 2012 

A proposed contract would allow raises up to about 4 percent per year for most employees of the Modesto Irrigation District.

Two board members said Friday that they are leery of the three-year deal, which could go before the board Aug. 14.

“I’m uncomfortable because of the current economic conditions and what has happened in the public sector generally,” board president Tom Van Groningen said in a meeting with Bee editors.

Director Glen Wild, who also took part, agreed that the timing is not right for the raises.

A spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the employees, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The contract would cover MID workers involved in power and water operations, customer service and several other areas — about 350 of the district’s 400 employees.

The contract was drafted with the help of an outside negotiator. Two of the three bargaining units have accepted it, MID General Manager Allen Short said.

The contract calls for raises to reflect inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The first would be retroactive to July 1 and have a cap of 3.9 percent. The others would happen at the start of the next two years and be capped at 4 percent.

The workers have not had inflation-based raises since 2007 but have been getting merit-based increases until reaching the maximum in their pay range, Short said.

The contract is being weighed at a time when public and private employers have been shedding jobs and trimming pay to deal with the continuing effects of the housing collapse.

Most employees of Stanislaus County government, for example, have agreed to permanent pay cuts of 6 percent.

The MID has a large number of fairly well-paying jobs, which officials have said is important in ensuring reliable power and water supplies.

Personnel costs are a small part of the MID’s total budget, most of which is taken up by power supply costs.

Those costs have dipped recently, Short said, and officials do not expect an electricity rate increase for 2013.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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