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Negotiating a Unionized Job Offer from a Municipality?


I received a Master of Planning and have been at my first job for two years now. It's at a non-profit so the pay isn't stellar but I work 35-hour work weeks and have 4 weeks of vacation a year.

I've been on the job hunt for the past few months and received an offer an hour and a half from where my girlfriend is living (3000 km away from me currently).

With this offer, I'd be making 6k less than what I make now for the first six months, 2k more than what I make now for the next six, 2k more than that after one year and so on to a maximum after several years. It's at a medium-sized city and working for a municipality would look good on my resume. There's also plenty of room to move up from within and the work looks interesting.

Nonetheless, the offer isn't the most ideal financially. The other places I'm interviewing for are paying around 15k more than what I make now (though they are further away from my girlfriend). At my current job I work 35 hour work weeks and get 4 weeks of vacation a year. With this offer, I'd be working 40 hours and would have two weeks of vacation after a year. This means that I'm taking a large pay cut for the first six months, and then I'd be kind of par to where I am after that. At the same time, the responsibilities would be greater. Cost of living is roughly equal. I also am considering buying property in around 3-4 months after I pass the probationary period, and I'd be able to qualify for more with a greater salary. I have around 60k saved up already.

I talked to the HR person on Friday, and she said she'd follow up on Monday with another phone call as I have to talk to my current supervisor about when I'd leave and figure out my living situation.

In a nutshell, here are my questions:

  1. Is there room to negotiate this offer? It's through a collective bargaining agreement and they made it sound like it's fairly standardized through steps. Should I negotiate? I don't want to come off as naggy but I'm not thrilled about taking a pay cut when my pay is low as it is
  2. Should I try to get a decision on the two other positions or keep waiting for something better? The place where I was offered is an hour and a half from my girlfriend, so we'd have to live in a middle city and commute or just see each other on weekends. The other two are 3 and a half hours away, and 5 and a half hours away, though they are closer to my family. I've applied to some in my girlfriend's city but haven't heard anything.
  3. When should I start? If I give two weeks notice at my current job, I'd be done on April 5th. I'd still have to either drive across the country (5-6 days) or sell my car. It'd also be nice to get a bit of a break. I'm planning on subletting a room from students. I could either start on the 8th (extremely rushed), 15th, or 23rd (nice for me but maybe too unreasonable)
**TL;DR I received a job offer with very clear steps as it's part of a unionized collective bargaining agreement. The pay at the beginning is lower than what I make, and the other perks (hours, vacation) are worse. Can I negotiate?


Whole lotta life issues here...

--anything is negotiable. The salary levels might be cast in (s)tone(r) but there might be additional benefits you could ask for. One might be moving expenses. Another: flexible personal time off.
(Now that I've ventured forward with a reply, perhaps some of the lookie-loos will chime in.)

--3000 km = 1800+ miles means you aren't able to see your GF very much at all presently. This gig might be what moves your r'ship forward.

--It might happen that you accept this gig, make the big move ... and then you hear back from the GF's city jobs. Stranger things have happened.

--If you and GF move in together half-way, you'd have lower costs of living (although a commute) and a higher level of life satisfaction.

--If the goal is to move your life happiness forward, moving closer to GF while up a half-rung on the career ladder would seem to be a good choice. Moving only incrementally closer to GF, not so much. Having proximity to family members isn't always optimal, or better than proximity to a not-yet family member.


The easiest way I've negotiated city jobs is by asking to by placed on a higher step. They don't have to start you at step 1. I've started some at step 4 or 5 and my current job at step 9. It all depends on your experience. Another thing to consider is who signs off on the step increase and how likely they are to give it to you. My last job needed the county commission to okay the increase (they did). My current job just needed a director to sign off (bigger city). He just took HRs recommendation based on my experience. It never hurts to ask if you can be a couple steps higher.


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At a union gig, you cannot negotiate additional time off, etc, because your position is bargained with the rest, however as DVD mentioned, you can ask for a higher step. At my current gig, that's exactly what I did, and I got it, as I presented that my previous salary was on par with the first step, and their job offer contained more responsibility, therefore I asked for the next step in pay, with a review after 6 months for potential step c pay. You can also negotiate dues for APA, or other professional education, etc that are not included in your bargaining contract.

As for the time off, were you using the 4 weeks off to begin with? Also was that rolled into just PTO versus sick / vacation time? If you weren't using all your time off its a non-issue.

As for start date, pick a start date that works for you. An employer makes you an offer, sign the sheet, pick the start date. We made an offer to the candidate we want. We can wait a few weeks and also acknowledge you need to get your ducks in order.

Ultimately you need to do what makes you happy. During the depths of the great recession, I took a job that was a pay cut, as well as a job title below what I was doing on the darkside. I learned a few things, but for many years I felt undervalued, and it really contributed to my overall depression, which caused a rift not only with how I interacted with customers, but took a toll on my marriage, which lead to a divorce. I am much happier now, and at the end of that gig, I learned a lot which set me up for success at my current position. Good Luck.