City labor contract shows encouraging move toward reality

The city of Williamsport has a new labor agreement with streets and parks employees set for City Council approval in the new year.

But it’s not just a run of the mill labor agreement.

If the major points of it are what they seem to be, we would hope the agreement would provide a template for future public employee contracts in city government.

For the first time in city history, the proposed agreement requires employees to contribute to their pensions and health care payments.

It will require new employees to contribute toward their retirements, similar to what is in a 401(k) plan in private business. The health care portion of the four-year agreement provides a means for employees to contribute toward their monthly premiums.

None of these items are shocking details to private sector employees, who have been contributing toward their health care and retirement plans for decades.

The undertold story has been the comparatively sweet deal public employees have been getting for decades regarding benefits, with many of those facets of their agreement underwritten by overburdened taxpayers.

We won’t say this to be critical, but merely to put out the double standard.

In fact, the city streets and parks union deserves credit for recognizing the proper future direction these public employee contracts need to take. If nothing else, it helps protects the workers’ jobs, because if the benefits cost too much, the city ultimately will have to reduce how many employees it can afford to pay those benefits.

“We realize the way the world is going and the burden can’t be put onto taxpayers alone,” Keith Segraves, streets and parks union president, said.

Congratulations to the administration and union for a practical labor agreement reflecting the realities of today.