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Seattle and city employees tentatively agree to raise annual wages

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(The Center Square) – After 17 months of negotiations, Seattle and city employees have reached a tentative agreement to increase wages by 9.7% through 2024.

The news comes as Mayor Bruce Harrell and the city are still tasked with addressing a budget gap projection of more than $229 million in 2025. At the beginning of the year, Harrell instituted a partial hiring freeze as a result of the increased budget gap projections.

The proposed four-year agreements with the 16 unions span from a retroactive start date on Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2026.

The contracts include a 5% annual wage increase that would retroactively be applied for 2023 and a 4.5% annual wage increase for 2024.

The wage increase for 2025 would be based on a two-year average of the consumer price index for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, with a 2% floor and a 4% cap. In 2026, the wage increase would be calculated in a similar way, but with an additional 1% increase with a 3% floor and a 5% cap.

“In all our talks, our focus has been on strengthening city services, improving recruitment and retention, and raising wages for the city’s lowest paid workers so they can remain supported in their work, and I’m extremely pleased that this contract accomplishes that,” Harrell said in a news release.

Along with the proposed wage increases, the tentative contracts include accelerated vacation accrual after four years of employment, increased premiums for swing and graveyard shift workers, and expanded access to bereavement leave to cover any legally recognized family relationship. Legislation delivered to the city council would also extend pay rate increases to non-represented employees so as to maintain parity for all employees.

The Seattle City Council will now need to approve the tentative agreements with the 16 unions that represent more than 7,000 Seattle city workers.

Once approved, the agreements would end ​​contract negotiations that first began in September 2022. The time between the start of negotiations and the tentative agreement that was announced on Wednesday was substantial. The Coalition of City Unions did not receive Seattle’s first economic proposal until March 2023, but what was proposed was deemed “too little, too late,” by the coalition.

The Seattle Wage Dataset shows that as of January 2022, prior to contract negotiations, 26% of city employees made between $21.05 to $30.09 an hour.