Monday night, the Representative Town Meeting with the municipal government’s largest union, the 72-member Local 1303-037, which gives employees raises between 0 and 2 percent and gains concessions on their health insurance plans.
The RTM approved the contract 16 to 3, with Democrats Theodore Olynciw and Andrea Kanfer and Republican William Auwood voting against it (members Lee Goss, Mark Gelinas and Thomas Ammirati were absent). While some RTM members brought up concerns with the contract, ultimately they agreed the deal was “going in the right direction.”
“It is not perfect, but (the contract) is going in the right direction,” said RTM member Janet Smith.
On request of RTM member Sharon Palmer, Union President Glenn Andrews briefly talked to the town body. He said the contract was fair for both sides, and the town workers were happy to be employed and they understand it is tough economic times.
“We feel this is a very fair contract for both the workers of the town and the taxpayers of the town,” Andrews said.
The contract gives raises of 2 percent, 0 percent, 2 percent and 1.75 percent over four years, with it ending in June 2015. The contract is retroactive, with it taking effect in the 2011-12 fiscal year and will cause the town to use money from its contingency fund to pay the unbudgeted raises, First Selectman Dan Steward said.
The contract raises the co-pays for office visits from $5 to $25 over the course of the contract and increases the co-pays for emergency room visits from $25 to $100. It also increases the employees’ cost sharing on their health insurance from 6.5 percent to 8 percent over the course of the contract.
The 1303 union is composed of members of the Recreation and Parks Department, Public Works Department and the secretarial staff, among others. The average salary of employees within the union is $51,240 and that number will rise to $54,412 in the last year of the contract.
Despite the approval, several RTM members voiced concerns about benefits within the contract. Member Beth Sabilia, for example, had concerns about the contract’s language on injury leave.
Under the contract, a worker who gets hurt on the job would receive workers' compensation, which pays the employee 70 percent of their salary untaxed. But the employee would also receive the remaining 30 percent of their usual pay from the town, meaning the employee would make more money when hurt because 70 percent of their usual salary is untaxed.
"That’s a bad policy,” Sabilia said. “That is a very bad policy.”
Steward agreed. He said is reviewing items such as that in every contract and the town will aggressively negotiate to remove them.
Additionally, Olynciw was upset that Steward could not provide salaries of other similar employees in other towns to see if the salaries in Waterford for 1303 members were comparable to other towns.
Steward provided a study commissioned by the RTM in 2002 that showed Waterford’s salaries were in-line with other towns. However, Olynciw said the material is a decade old and is no longer relevant.
“A lot has happened in the last 10 years,” Olynciw said. “I don’t have all the information I need. I cannot vote yes on this contract because I don’t have the necessary information I asked for two months ago.”
Editor's Note: William Auwood is a Republican, not a Democrat. The article now reflects that.