Durham city council approves bonuses, but city workers say fight not over

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Durham council approves bonuses, but city workers say fight not over
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Durham City Council voted to award all city workers with bonuses during Thursday's work session. Although it was not the outcome that sanitation workers were hoping for, they called it a partial victory.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham City Council voted to award all city workers with bonuses during Thursday's work session. Although it was not the outcome that sanitation workers were hoping for, they called it a partial victory.

The highest bonus of $5,000 will go to workers who earn less than $42,480 per year.

The lowest bonus of $500 will go to workers who earn more than $106,211.

All part-time workers will receive $1,000 bonuses.

According to city council members, these bonuses will cost the city $6.5 million and they will come from carryover funds from this year's budget.

READ MORE: Durham sanitation workers agree to return to work for now

It was sanitation worker George Bacote's transparency that left the audience in awe.

"It's a handful of workers who are homeless living in hotels with their wives and children," Bacote said. "I'm going to say it because nobody else wants to say it."

The fight for better compensation continued within the city council chambers Thursday. Firefighters weighed in, too.

"One thing that drives people to leave any employer is morale," one firefighter stated. "If we make a decision that will further decimate morale, you can't pay people enough to stay."

The city's budget department presented three bonus options based on the area's median income, but there were questions about that.

"Average median income," questioned one resident. "What does that have to do with the cost of living? They're not tied."

The city council typically doesn't vote during work sessions, but the rules were suspended to move the bonuses along.

After the meeting, city workers held a news conference with hopes that the city would eventually be able to pay $5,000 bonuses to all workers.

"We as of now call this a victory, but the fight is not over," said John Burwell, UE150 Union Steward.

Although city council members are considered city workers, they will not receive this bonus because they decided to go exempt.

Mayor Elaine O'Neal made a commitment to all city workers for the remainder of her term.

"I will not give up on your ask," she said.