Dispatchers' new contract: No pensions for new hires, higher co-payments
Updated 11:05 am, Thursday, July 12, 2012
A new four-year contract with the town's emergency dispatchers no longer provides pensions for newly hired employees at the Emergency Communications Center and requires all of the union's members to pay a higher percentage of their insurance premiums -- a blueprint officials hope to use for other municipal labor contracts.
The Board of Selectmen at its Wednesday member got an update on the contract ratified by the 17-member dispatcher bargaining unit from Patrick McHale, the town's labor counsel, but did not vote on the agreement.
The dispatchers' previous contract expired in June 2010, but McHale said the new pact does not include retroactive raises for the first two years. As of July 1, 2012, dispatchers receive a pay raise of 2 percent, and get another 2 percent when the contract is approved by the Representative Town Meeting. In July 2013, the contract calls for a 2.25 percent raise.
"Over the four years, the total wage increase is 6.25 percent," McHale said, but if averaged out over the entire four years of the pact, the annual increase is just slightly over 1.5 percent. "This is especially good for the town in light of the fact the town doesn't have to come up with funds for retroactive wage increases.
The new dispatchers, under the contract, will no longer derive retirement benefits from the town's pension plan. Instead, they will be able to participate in a defined-contribution program like a 401-a.
More importantly, he said, are changes that require the dispatchers to pay 10 percent of their insurance premium rather than the $31 a week flat flee they now pay, whether they have coverage for only themselves or their entire family. Currently, McHale said, dispatchers all pay $1,612 a year for health insurance.
Under the new contract, family coverage would cost an employee $3,417 annually, while coverage for a spouse would be $2,600 a month. For employee-only coverage, the cost would be $1,234.
"More employees in town have two-person or family coverage than single coverage," McHale said, and under the old contract, those getting benefits only for themselves were paying the same amount as someone with a family policy.
"It's a very significant change," he told the selectmen. "Employees now have a vested interest in helping us control the costs of the premiums."
Another significant change concerns workers' compensation, McHale said. Under state statutes, the town must pay 66.7 percent of an employee's salary when they are awarded workers' compensation. Under the old contract, the town would pay the difference between workers' compensation payments and salary for up to 30 days for employees with more than 10 years of service, 20 days for those with 5 to 10 years of service and 12 days for those with 1 to 5 years of service.
That will no longer happen, McHale said. Employees who wish to receive the difference between their salary and workers' compensation payments will have to use their sick days. "We will no longer supplement it for free," he said. "The town will debit your sick time accordingly; it will be an individual decision."
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