With a majority of the town’s union contracts now requiring newly hired employees to participate in a defined contribution retirement plan, rather than a traditional pension, some Representative Town Meeting members want non-union hires to get the same retirement coverage.

RTM Moderator Pamela Iacono, R-9, and members Michael Herley, R-1, and Ray Neuberger, R-10, are co-sponsoring a proposed amendment to the town code designed to make the benefits change. The amendment is on the RTM’s August agenda for referral to the Legislation and Administration Committee. It could come up for a vote by the full RTM in October.

Currently, Chapter 37 of the town code states that anyone hired after March 15, 1966, “shall become a member of the retirement system if he qualifies in accordance with the rules and regulations” of the Retirement Board — in other words, receive a traditional pension.

At July’s RTM meeting, where new contracts for police and firefighters were approved, Iacono said, “I am upset we have an ordinance that allows non-union employees to go into the pension plan, but we ask union employees to go to a 401 (a)” to which they must contribute.

Iacono said no one from the town’s administration “bothered to bring it to our attention” regarding the ordinance’s existence.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” she said, to not ask the same of non-union employees. “I don’t think that it’s right and it needs to be amended.”

The proposed change would require non-union employees hired after Nov. 1, 2015, to participate in a 401(a) type plan, with no eligibility or vesting rights to the existing municipal pension plan. Employees would be required to contribute at least 4 percent of their salary to the 401(a), with the town matching the contribution up to a maximum of 5 percent. The town’s contribution would not vest until the employee has worked continuously for four years.

In 2013, when the push began to make the change for retirement benefits covered by union contracts, the question arose about why department heads and elected officials were also not required to participate in a 401(a) rather than the pension plan.

At the time, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the practice had been to have department head benefits mirror those in the contract for the town’s middle management employees.

According to town Human Resources Director Mary Carroll Mirylees, the school nurses, Town Hall employees, Public Works, Emergency Communications Center and the Professional and Technical unions all now require new hires to have a 401(a). The Professional and Technical bargaining unit has been commonly known as the mid-managers’ union.

Iacono said she was “appalled that administration was sitting across the bargaining table and insisting that union members move to a 401(a), but was concurrently hiring new employees as department heads and offering them an opportunity to participate in the traditional town pension plan.”

She said she learned at an RTM committee meeting that the ordinance allowed for the current practice.

“As I stated at the RTM meeting, shame on the RTM for not revising the ordinance when the body expressed the desire to move new hires to the 401(a) several years ago, but, even worse, the administration clearly knew and understood the ordinance but never bothered to seek out or request legislation to revise it,” Iacono said. “Instead, administration hired approximately five non-union employees with employment offers that included the pension.”

Iacono said it is “completely disingenuous for the administration to sit across the bargaining table from a unit and ask them for concessions, and then turn around and hide behind legislation that protects administration's direct reports from participating in the same concession.”