Town Council approves new public works union contract
A new bargaining agreement for the Department of Public Works will bring an approximate 3 percent cost increase to the town of New Canaan over the next three years, Human Resources Director Cheryl Jones told the Town Council June 18.
The new three-year contract, which the council unanimously approved, is effective retroactively to July 1, 2013, and runs through June 30, 2016.
Jones said the town and the union -- Local 1303-013 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- have been negotiating since Aug. 1.
"I think it's a good contract for the town, a good contract for Public Works," Jones said, adding that there was "much give and take in the last negotiations."
John Killinger, the union's president, said the nearly yearlong discussions resulted in "a good deal" for the department.
"The union is happy," he said. "It was long, but it was worth it."
The hourly wages for the department's approximate 55-man crew will increase by 1 percent in the 2014 fiscal year, retroactively, 2 percent in 2015 and another 2 percent in 2016.
For instance, step-one highway crew leaders, who make $22.75 an hour, will see their hourly wages rise to $24.08, $24.56 and $25.05 over the three years of the contract. Step-five mechanics will see their hourly wages increase from $31.23 to $33.06, $33.72 and $34.39 each fiscal year.
In an analysis with the town's Finance Department, Jones said the overall contract would cost taxpayers about 1 percent more every year. She noted that the estimate includes the higher wages, differences in health care costs and pension benefits, to which the DPW staff would be contributing more than it has in the past.
Under the new agreement, all new hires who are smokers or use any other tobacco products "and those who are morbidly obese" will have to contribute an additional 2 percent toward the cost of insurance.
All work performed on Sunday now will be compensated at double time, instead of time-and-a-half, about which Killinger said the union was really pleased.
"We went more after (the benefits), not so much the money," he said, "because we realized the town has to manage the budgets."
In addition, one employee of the department will be allowed to sit on the town's Pension Fund Committee as a nonvoting member.
Town Councilman Bill Walbert agreed the contract was fair to the employees, whom he praised at the meeting.
"We're incredibly proud of the public works employees. They do an amazing job for this town," Walbert said. "This town is blessed to have such an incredible work force."
In a statement this week, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi agreed with Walbert.
"This contract was fair to all parties and recognizes the sizable effort these employees make toward the maintenance and infrastructure needs of our community," Mallozzi wrote.
The department is the largest municipal employer in New Canaan, excluding the public schools.
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