City Saves $3.5 Million in Sensible and Fair Agreement with Clerical Workers
(8/1/2012) The Office of Labor Relations this week submitted to the Board of Aldermen a sensible and fair five-year collective bargaining agreement with Local 884 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Reflecting persistent challenges in the state economy and the limitations of City resources, the agreement addresses several areas noted by credit rating agencies in their recent reports, including sensible pensions, health plans that reflect market conditions, and the elimination of premium pay such as longevity.
The proposed agreement would save the City $3.5 million over the life of the contract, largely due to significant savings in pension and medical costs. At the same time, the agreement increases the take-home pay of the average Local 884 employee by $3,230 over the life of the agreement.
The contract covers the period from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015. Local 884 represents approximately 430 City clerical employees. The union ratified the proposed agreement at a meeting last Friday, July 27. In accordance with the Municipal Employee Relations Act, the agreement must be submitted to the Board of Aldermen within 14 days of ratification. The Board of Aldermen then has 30 days to either approve or reject the agreement. If no vote is taken before September 9, the agreement is automatically approved. The City of New Haven cannot unilaterally adjust employee compensation and work rules, and must participate in the State’s collective bargaining process. The agreement with Local 884 was reached through active negotiations between the City and the union, without having to resort to binding arbitration as was the case with school custodians.
“Negotiations were difficult, but we worked hard to find a middle ground with the City. We are pleased that Local 884 members accepted the recommendations of our negotiating team and voted to ratify the contract. This contract protects the services that Local 884 members proudly provide to New Haven residents and businesses,” said Local 884 President Ron Hobson.
The proposed agreement carries wage increases of 3 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent in FY2013, 2014 and 2015, commencing upon ratification of the contract. At the same time, the agreement introduces substantial cost savings to the City in medical and pension benefits, and eliminates longevity payments for newer employees. Consistent with contracts for school administrators and school custodians, the agreement with Local 884 introduces a high-deductible medical plan. Employees may choose to retain similar existing plans, but will pay higher cost shares under the new agreement. Also consistent with contract language introduced to other City bargaining units, the agreement with Local 884 includes a tiered pension structure that protects the benefits of employees close to or at retirement age, while introducing changes for those not yet hired and with fewer years on the job.
The agreement also introduces important work rule changes to improve staffing flexibility and efficiency, particularly during declared emergencies. Minimum guaranteed pay for those called-in to work outside their traditional shift has been reduced from four hours to three hours. The agreement also introduces rolling shifts for public safety answering point staff to help prevent staffing challenges during shift turnovers. In addition, the contract introduces flexibility that provides for additional library branch hours on Saturdays.
“This is a win-win agreement for taxpayers and employees. Changes to pension and healthcare benefits are necessary to the long-term financial stability of the City, but this contract shows that those changes can occur while still maintaining sensible and fair compensation for employees,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
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