New contracts approved for McKeesport police, crossing guards
McKeesport city council on Wednesday unanimously approved three-year contracts with Teamsters Local 205 on behalf of city police officers and crossing guards.
The pacts affect five crossing guards and approximately 60 officers, 51 of whom work full time.
“It might be the best wage and benefit package they had ever received,” said former city policeman Carl Bailey, Local 205's secretary-treasurer and principal officer, about the police contract.
Bailey said wages will rise on average 4 percent per year. Mayor Michael Cherepko said there is a half-percent adjusted increase for lieutenants and captains.
“(The mayor) felt that for the environment they work for they do a good job, they deserved to be compensated,” Bailey said.
The Local 205 leader said McKeesport has the largest department in Western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Erie.
It's the largest department represented by White Oak-based Local 205, which handles collective bargaining for officers in West Mifflin, Wilkinsburg, North Versailles, Pleasant Hills, Jefferson Hills and South Park.
“I think we have a police department that is second to none,” Cherepko told council at its Tuesday workshop.
The mayor reported one concession, saying health insurance co-pays no longer will be reimbursed.
“It is a small step in the right direction,” Cherepko said.
The mayor said talks with the crossing guards “were pretty straightforward,” but their deal wipes out health insurance for all but one member of that bargaining unit. That worker likely will retire in two years.
“We have always offered benefits,” Cherepko said. “As mayor I hate to take that away from them.”
The mayor noted the limited time the guards work in a 180-day school year. The guards said their workday is based on school bus schedules and can run from 3 1⁄2 to 4 hours.
Ed Boehm, Local 205 recording secretary and business agent, said the remaining crossing guards opted out of receiving health benefits.
“The negotiations went smooth with no huge stumbling blocks,” Boehm said. “The crossing guards are among the highest paid in the area. Basically they are getting a 2 percent increase per year.”
The current roster of crossing guards is a far cry from the 34 once used by the McKeesport Area School District.
“We are very fortunate that we get paid a flat rate per day and (are given a) clothing allowance for us to buy uniforms,” said Dorothy Kuharski, head school guard since 1986. According to the guards' previous contract, that rate ranged from $68.80 to Kuharski's $71 daily rate.
“Half of our pay comes from the city and it is a state law that any school district must pay the other half,” Kuharski said.
District spokeswoman Kristen Davis said the guards are stationed along Sumac Street and Versailles Avenue; Coursin Street and Shaw Avenue; Union Street and Versailles; at the Twin Rivers primary-intermediate school complex and at Propel McKeesport.
One change in both contracts reflects an overall change for city employees meant to be a vote of confidence in McKeesport's largest employer, UPMC McKeesport.
The city announced late last year it flipped its health insurance from Highmark to UPMC Health Plan.
“I made it very clear,” Cherepko said. “It was very important for us as a city to show our support to our community hospital.”
The mayor stressed regular contacts between the city and the hospital, including a scheduled Thursday meeting with hospital president Mark Sevco.
“We're excited to continue our working relationship with UPMC McKeesport,” Cherepko said.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or [email protected].