The Representative Town Meeting has approved a new four-year union contract for a small group of municipal workers, the latest of several employee pacts recently backed by the legislative body.
The new pact, approved Oct. 2, covers about 25 members of Local 1303-194, Council No. 4, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which includes emergency medical technicians, Parks and Recreation Department employees and police vehicle maintenance personnel. The deal, retroactive from July 2011 to June 2015, was approved by a vote of 28-0, with one abstention.
Local 1303-194 members' salaries will stay flat in the first year of their contract. Their wages increase by 2.25 percent in the current fiscal year and then rise by 2.5 percent in each of the last two years of the contract. Workers such as custodians, drivers, grounds specialists, dockmasters and assistant greenskeepers are also eligible for seven levels of longevity-based "step" increases. During the approved contract, those employees' annual salaries will range between approximately $40,000 and $67,000. Other union members such as emergency medical technicians, working foremen and EMT coordinators will not receive step increases. Salaries for that latter group will range between about $63,000 and $77,000.
The new pact for Local 1303-194 is the fourth employee contract approved by the RTM in about a year. In the fall of 2011, the RTM endorsed new agreements for the town's firefighter union and its largest municipal employee union, the Westport Municipal Employees Union. In April, the RTM approved a new contract and pension plan for the town's public works union. Terms for that deal were set by a state arbitration panel.
"In terms of the contract itself, it is essentially identical to prior contracts that were brought before you with WMEU and fire and very similar to the agreement reached by the arbitrators in the public works contract," said Floyd Dugas, the town's labor counsel.
A "lock-out" provision in effect until 2014 prevented the town from demanding changes to the union's pension plan.
"Even though we raised issues regarding defined-contribution [plan] and changing the pension plan, the union was not interested in pursuing any of those changes," Dugas said. "We were not going to win that issue and ultimately chose to pursue those changes."
The new contract also stipulates increased co-pays for medical office and emergency visits and hospital admissions and higher co-pays for prescription drugs. Office visits for medical care will require a $15 co-pay during the first three years of the contract and a $20 co-pay in the contract's final year. Hospital admissions will entail $200 co-pays, while emergency and/or urgent care visits will take $75 co-pays. Prescription drug payments will range between $5 and $30. As an alternative to a traditional health-insurance plan, the town will also offer individual reimbursement accounts with a $1,500 individual deductible and a $3,000 two-person or family deductible. Those deductibles will be 75 percent funded by the town.
Union members will cover 11 percent of their health-insurance premium costs during the current fiscal year, 12 percent in 2013-14 and 13 percent in 2014-15.
The new contract reduces union members' maximum eligibility for injury-leave benefits from 24 months to 18 months.
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