Union representatives for blue- and white-collar D.C. employees met for more than four hours yesterday and will meet again today to plan a strategy to resist pay raise deferrals and furloughs planned by Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon.
"We resolved some things," said Sylvia Hall, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Council 20. "Things went as I expected. I wanted everybody to get together. And they did -- with no arguing or fussing or getting angry and walking out."
Cohesion among the nearly three dozen locals will be crucial to negotiations over new contracts and the cuts proposed this year by the mayor in an effort to ease the city's $300 million deficit. During yesterday's meeting, Hall, Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Labor Council, and Ed Kornegay, president of Teamsters Local 1714, expressed an urgent need to resolve differences among the unions.
"What a public employer does to his or her workers is a clear signal, an indication, to private employers as to what they can do to their workers," Williams said.
Labor leaders declined to discuss any agreements they made about Dixon's proposals. By law, the city unions cannot strike. Before the meeting, however, several members discuss the possibility of workers in the 16,000-strong locals following "work-to-rule" strategies, which would mean not working beyond normal hours.
Although Dixon supported labor's request for a 2 percent pay raise during her campaign, the day after she took office she told labor leaders she would be asking for pay raise deferrals for all city workers, union and nonunion.
Since then, Dixon has said furloughs could take place if no other federal money becomes available to offset the deficit.
Labor leaders have been complaining for a few weeks that Dixon has been turning her cutback proposals into a public relations campaign and the administration has been slow in getting to the bargaining table.
Karen A. Tramontano, Dixon's labor liaison, said yesterday that phone calls were made to some union leaders late this week to begin bargaining sessions. A sessions with the police union has been scheduled for early February. The police pact, like most contracts with city unions, expired Sept. 30.
"What I have said is that a pay raise in fiscal year 1991 is virtually impossible because the money is just not there . . . but we're talking about a package, a package of compensaton and non-compensation issues that have to be addressed," Tramontano said.