A new contract with Fairfield's public health nurses gives them a 6.25 percent increase over the four-year pact, but no longer covers new nurses in the town pension plan, increases their insurance co-pays and premium contributions, and gives the town more flexibility in making assignments.

The Board of Selectmen got an overview of the contract, which covers 35 nurses, at its meeting last Wednesday. The agreement also must be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

"It's not dissimilar to what I reported on the dispatchers' contract," labor lawyer Patrick McHale said. "It is analogous and in most ways identical to the changes negotiated" recently for the employees of the town's Emergency Communications Center.

The nurses, represented by the American Federation of Teachers, have not had a contract or a raise since June 30, 2010.

McHale said there is no retroactive pay raises in the new agreement. Instead, with the RTM's ratification, the nurses would receive a 4 percent raise. Under the pact, they would receive another 2.25 percent increase on July 1, 2013.

Currently, the nurses pay a flat $31 per week toward health insurance premiums, whether the coverage is for a single, couple or family. That would change under the new pact, with the employees paying 12 percent of the premium cost, depending on the level of benefits they receive.

"That's a significant increase they've agreed to for those with two-person or family coverage," McHale said.

Also, newly hired nurses in the future will get retirement coverage through a 401a defined-contribution plan rather than be covered by the town's traditional pension plan as in the past.

McHale praised the union members for their cooperation, who said they recognized "the financial realities we're dealing with. We're hoping the other unions we have remaining will follow suit."

He said the new agreement also gives the town more flexibility to assign nurses based on their education, skills and experience, rather than simply seniority.

Paid sick days were also reduced, depending on years of service.

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