The three unions representing city of Pendleton employees have declined to take pay freezes to help curb budgetary constraints.

The unions — which represent all city employees except managers and those who work less than half-time — had already signed pay raise contracts with the city before City Manager Robb Corbett asked them to forego the increases in March. He requested unions vote to keep their wages flat for the fiscal year starting July 1 to account for an increase of more than $400,000 in payments the city must make to state retirement funds, and a $430,000 deficit in its general fund.

“If they all agreed to taking a wage freeze for city workers, that would save the city $120,000,”?he said. “They felt there were other places in the budget that could be trimmed to account for the needs of the city.”

Conrad Wyss, president of the city firefighters’ union, said he was surprised by Corbett’s request because the city had agreed to the pay raises in spring 2012, and the union had agreed to forego a contracted pay increase just a few years prior.

The majority of its 18 members voted against Corbett’s request at a special meeting April 10.

“It was overwhelmingly voted ‘no’,” Wyss said. “We agreed to the contract and the union membership voted to not (change) that. It’s pretty much just that simple.”

All unions responded to Corbett’s request by Friday.

The unions negotiate pay raises with the city every three years to compensate for cost of living increases, or COLAs, said Pendleton human resources manager Andrea Denton. In July, wages will increase by 1.8 percent for police department workers, 2 percent for fire department employees, and 2.5 percent for all other unionized employees.

The police department increase mirrored the cost of living reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Portland area in December 2012 and the others were decided through negotiations.

The fire department and general employee union agreements expire 2015, and the police department employee agreement expires in 2014.

— Contact Chris Rizer at crizer@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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