MODESTO -- Proposed pay raises at the Modesto Irrigation District got nowhere with its board Tuesday, which declined to vote on the controversial matter.
No one seconded Director Nick Blom's motion to discuss a union contract that would provide up to 12 percent in cost-of-living increases through 2014, among other things.
A separate resolution that would apply the same terms to nonunion employees failed to even get a motion.
The board could take action at a future meeting, but until then, the parties still have a tentative agreement on the table, district spokeswoman Melissa Williams said.
The pact was reached by union leaders and an outside negotiator hired by the district.
Blom said after Tuesday's meeting that he was leaning toward voting for the contract because the employees have not had inflation-based raises since 2007. They did get merit-based increases until reaching the top of their salary ranges.
"I just wanted to be able to talk about it in public," Blom said of his motion.
Board member Paul Warda said he agrees that the employees deserve raises, but they are a hard sell at a time when other employers are laying off people and reducing pay.
"It should be noted we haven't furloughed anybody, we haven't cut anybody's wages," he said.
The contract would provide a 3.9 percent raise immediately and inflation-based increases of up to 4 percent in 2013 and again in 2014.
In addition, 55 percent of the district's 400 or so employees would get raises of 3 percent to 34 percent based on salary comparisons with 14 other utilities and public employers in Northern California. Those above the average would have forgone some of the inflation-based raises until the average caught up with them.
The contract also would have reduced pension benefits for future hires.
Board member Glen Wild said he supported most of the contract, but not the large raises to bring some employees on a par with other agencies.
Board chairman Tom Van Groningen also has expressed concern about raising pay in a tough economy.
"This likely will result in some contention on the part of the union," he said Tuesday, referring to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245.
Tom Dalzell, business manager for the local, declined to comment after the meeting.
The contract had been approved by two of the union's bargaining units the 208-member utility service and maintenance unit and the 44-member professional and supervisory unit. The 107-member administrative, technical and clerical unit rejected the contract.
The 46 unrepresented employees include managers, secretaries and several other job classes.
Board member Larry Byrd did not take part in the discussion of the union contract because his son is among the covered employees. He said the district's legal counsel told him he could vote, but he withdrew "to avoid any appearance of impropriety."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (209) 578-2385.