In a slim vote, Lower Macungie Township Supervisors voted on Feb. 3 to raise the salaries of its nine clerical workers by 2.9 percent this year, 2.8 percent in 2012 and 2.7 percent in 2013.
But it was a hesitant vote, at best.
Roger Reis, supervisor president, explained before the vote that the township offered the workers a 2-percent increase, but the clerical workers’ representative – all members of Teamsters Local 773 – countered the original offer with a request for a 4-percent increase.
“It’s difficult to separate feelings in a situation like this,” he said. “We know these people. It’s personal and we didn’t want to slight anyone.”
"These are tough economic times," Reis continued, "The city of Bethlehem laid off workers and we all know people who have lost their jobs, their bonuses, their raises. So we thought our offer of 2 percent was fair.”
However, he said, he didn’t want to be “penny wise and pound foolish” if the decision to reject the contract at hand was going to spark a lawsuit by the workers. If the township stuck to its guns to save $10,000 but was then forced to spend $50,000 in legal fees, voting against the contract would be counterproductive.
“Therefore, I will vote to accept this contract, not because it’s the contract I want, but because it’s fairest to the people of Lower Macungie Township.”
Supervisors Douglas Brown and Ron Eichenberg also voted to pass the contract, but without comment.
Supervisor Joseph Pugliese voted no, saying the workers deserve an increase, “But I would like to have seen less of an increase,” he said.
Supervisor Ryan Conrad also voted no, saying that in a year when the township passed a budget that included a $300,000 deficit, more than a 2-percent increase was not in the best interest of the taxpayers.
“A 2-percent increase is not a penalty. A penalty would be a 0-percent increase or a cut in pay. So, I will reluctantly vote no. I know this can impact morale, but it’s not the quality of their work. The original offer was in the interest of belt-tightening when belt-tightening is needed,” Conrad said.