Raises, higher premium costs in new contracts for cops, firefighters
Published 6:36 am, Thursday, July 16, 2015
The town’s police and firefighter unions have agreed to contracts that grant raises for both emergency services, but also require them to make higher contributions for health insurance, pensions and retirement benefits.
The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday received an update on the contracts, though they do not vote on the pacts. They will face final approval by the Representative Town Meeting.
Both contracts are for four years each, retroactive to 2013.
Members of the police union will receive annual raises of 2.49 percent, but according to Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer, when the increased benefit contributions are included, the actual increase is 2.05 percent yearly.
For firefighters, the salary increase is also 2.49 percent for each year, but with the higher benefit contributions, the average raise is 2.09 percent annually.
Firefighters and police now pay 8.5 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. Under the new contracts, the will increase to 13 percent for the last two years of the contract. Premiums for other post-employment benefits, known as “OPEB,” will increase from 1.5 to 2.5 percent this year and 3.25 percent in 2016. Their pension contributions will increase from 4.5 percent to 4.75 percent this year.
“We found it to be a fair contract,” Assistant Fire Chief Chris Tracy, the firefighter union president, said. “We obviously worked over the last two years and change to come to this agreement.”
Tracy said the contract is a “fair and balanced one” for both the firefighters and the town.
Police union president Lt. Keith Broderick agreed.
“We are very happy on finally coming to a resolution after working over two years without a contract,” Broderick said. “We feel the contract is fair to both sides.”
Final approval of the contracts is up to the RTM. “We hope we get the support from the RTM and the residents of this town,” Broderick said. “Our officers go out and protect this great town every day and they deserve a fair contract to work under.”
The contracts also make a change to the grievance process for both employee groups, replacing the Police and Fire commissions with the town’s human resources director.
Human Resources Director Mary Carroll Mirylees said the grievance process is governed by strict guidelines, which often makes it difficult to assemble a quorum of a commission in time to meet those guidelines.
“This allows us to respond quicker to those issues,” she said of the change, adding that grievances often have to do with issues like worker’s compensation that commission members may not be familiar with.
“We seem to be moving in the right direction,” Selectman Sheila Marmion said. “We’re asking our employees to contribute more and that translates into savings for the town overall.”
The firefighters’ contract covers 94 members, while the police union has 101 members.
“This goes a long way toward addressing our long-term liabilities and long-term costs,” First Selectman Michael Tetreau said.
Mayer said the health plans’ design would carry lower premiums in any case, meaning there would have been savings even without the higher employee contributions.