Stewart: Renegotiated Pact Will Save New Britain $2 Million
New Labor Deal Eliminates Big Jump In Public Works Staffing
By DON STACOM
The Hartford Courant
4:58 PM EST, December 10, 2013
NEW BRITAIN — The public works union and Mayor Erin Stewart have renegotiated a new contract proposal so the city can save as much as $2 million a year, the city announced Tuesday.
The new agreement leaves public works staffing at 120 jobs, rather than the rise to 150 that was dictated originally. The union also agreed to let the city use seasonal, relatively low-cost workers during more of the year.
The union ratified the new deal 59-2 on Tuesday morning, and the common council will vote on it Wednesday night. The four-year agreement is retroactive to 2012 and holds wages flat for the first year, followed by 3 percent raises in each of the following three years.
The first version of the contract with Local 1186 was reached in the final weeks of Democratic Mayor Tim O’Brien’s administration. It would have restored about 30 jobs lost through attrition and reorganization over the past two years. The council scheduled a vote for just two days after Stewart took office; Stewart and council leaders delayed the vote for several weeks to give her time to review the deal, and she has been negotiating with the union since then.
“We worked diligently with the city, and the membership overwhelmingly approved this with the intent of putting all of the issues to rest,” said Ed Thibodeau, staff representative for the union, which is an arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It represents about 170 public works, parks, water and sewer employees.
Stewart negotiated the increased staffing requirement out of the contract. In addition, the union now will allow seasonal laborers to work about five extra weeks a year.
“The expanded use of seasonal labor gives the department of public works, which now includes parks and recreation and the water department, greater latitude to utilize comparatively inexpensive labor for projects such as grounds-keeping and downtown cleanup,” Stewart said.
“This is a reasonable agreement for all parties, including the workers, the residents of New Britain and the taxpayers – many of whom are the workers we represent,” said Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4.
Following the first major labor negotiations of her administration, Stewart praised 1186 President Mike Thompson, who is leaving his union post this year.
“I appreciate Mike Thompson’s willingness to come back to the table and, ultimately, agree to concessions that will help the city,” she said in a statement. “I thank him for his leadership of 1186, and I congratulate newly-elected president Sue Egan and look forward to a productive and respectful working relationship with her.”
This article originally appeared in the Hartford Courant.