Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that his plan to give District government workers a 5 percent pay increase are no longer firm in the light of a ruling last week that the city must bargain with public employee unions over wages.
Barry also said that if the cityis compelled through the bargaining process to give more than a 5 percent increase, he will probably ask the City Council to increase taxes on personal income or residential property.
Barry remarks, which came at a regular monthly press conference, constituted his first official reaction to the decision last Friday by the city's Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) that the city must bargain with its workers over wages.
Barry's position remains that the financially strapped city can afford no more than the 5 percent raise already offered. But leaders of public employee unions are seeking a 9.1 percent increase, equal to that given recently to federal employees.
The mayor said the corporation counsel is looking into the possibility of appealing the PERB ruling in court. In the meantime, he said, the scheduled 5 percent increase will not take effect.
Barry left open the possibility that no raise at all would be given until the bargaining process is completed. He also left open the option of granting the 5 percent raise to nonunion workers only, giving nothing to unionized workers until bargaining has been completed.
He said that in the event that the city is forced to give a higher wage increase, he would prefer to raise the money through tax increases rather than additional layoffs. But later in the press conference, Barry warned the unions that a higher increase could cause "hundreds of their fellow employees" to be laid off.
"The workers I've talked to indicate they would rather settle [for the 5 percent] than see their colleagues laid off," Barry said. "I wonder if the union leadership isn't out of tune."
During the wide-ranging news conference, Barry also announced support for the D.C. statehood initiative on the November ballot. The measure, if passed, would set in motion the process necessary for the District to try to become the 51st state, thus gaining full voting representation in Congress.
Barry refused, however, to take a position on another November initiative that would legalize a city-run lottery and numbers game.