Fairfield RTM rejects pact for town's mid-managers
Updated 11:01 am, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Representative Town Meeting, signaling continued displeasure over municipal employee benefits, on Monday night rejected a contract with the town's mid-managers.
The contract would have given 41 middle-management employees raises that started at 1 percent in the first year, and rose to 3 percent in the third and final year. The pact, however, also would require all new hires to participate in a defined contribution plan instead of the existing pension plan. It also increased employees' share of the cost of health-care premiums and their co-payments.
But that apparently was not enough for the RTM. The proposed pact was rejected by a vote of 27-6, with three abstentions.
Edward Bateson, R-3, said sharing in insurance premiums started this year for the recently approved Town Hall employee union, but for the mid-managers would not start until 2012. "I'd like it to be similar," he said.
He also faulted a clause that allows employees to "buy back" into the pension plan if they left the town's employment but were rehired after more than two years. In this case, that clause applies only to Assistant Public Works Director Edward Boman, who started working for the town under former First Selectman John J. Sullivan, but left at one point..
Bateson said he didn't think that should be a decision made by the RTM, although Human Resources Director Mary Carroll Mirylees said that is the RTM's responsibility under the town charter.
"I don't think we should be dealing with one specific person in that fashion," agreed David Becker, R-1, a candidate for first selectman, adding it would just add another burden to town finances.
According to a report, allowing Boman to buy back his pension service would increase the pension plan's actuarial accrued liability by about $322,000.
Joseph Palmer, R-3, said he had "serious issues" with the contract, beginning with the mid-managers paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums.
Federal employees, he said, pay 28 percent, while in the private sector, that payment ranges from 25 to 50 percent.
"It completely ignores the financial situation we're in right now," Palmer said, "to allow town employees to under-contribute."
Increasing employees' share to 25 percent, he said, would save the town $4 million next year. "I just can't allow this to go on, not in just one year, but three," Palmer said. "It's just unacceptable."
Mirylees pointed out that every negotiation involves give and take. "If you're unhappy, I'm sorry," she said. "There was a strong commitment on the part of the town to fundamentally change benefits. No it hasn't changed to what everyone in corporate is paying, but they are paying and paying more for their co-pays."