Long Bargaining Process Yields Raises, Improvements in Seniority Language

12 July, 2017
Groton, CT

Municipal workers in Groton, who are members of Sub-local 62 of UE Local 222, ratified a new three-year contract after two years of negotiation and a one-year extension. Workers will receive a 2 percent general wage increase each year.

For health insurance, in the first year of the contract, the employees remain on the PPO paying a 14 percent premium cost share. In the second year coverage moves to an HSA. It will be a $2,000 to $4,000 deductible plan, with the town contributing 50 percent toward each employee’s deductible. Members’ premium cost share will be 10 percent in 2017 and 11 percent in 2018,

The new contract provides a $1 increase in the meal allowance, bringing it to $10. There is also a $25 increase in the safety shoe allowance, bringing the amount to $175, with a requirement that the safety shoes must extend above the ankle. The new contract also applies the safety shoe allowance to additional classifications not previously eligible.

Another contract language change replaces the term “funeral leave” with “bereavement leave” and specifies that the paid time off covers attendance at a memorial service. Another change says that when December 24 or 26 are a Saturday, library employees will not be required to work that day in order to receive holiday pay. Regular part-time employees hired after July 1, 2016 shall not be eligible for longevity pay.

SENIORITY IMPROVEMENTS

A goal of the union membership for these negotiations was to clean up confusion in seniority language regarding layoffs and bumping. The union committee pushed for improvements to make sure that the last person hired would be the first person out when a layoff occurs. The old contract left room for management to place a long-term employee on the layoff list while an employee with less time could retain a job.

In the revised language, seniority shall mean the length of continuous service within the bargaining unit. If two or more people have the same length of service within the bargaining unit but one of them has a longer total time of employment by the town, that person will be considered the most senior. In order to bump an employee must have evaluations that meet or exceed standards. In case of layoffs and bumping, the first and second affected employees shall transfer to a vacant position in the same classification or a vacant position in a different classification in the same pay level. They will not be required to transfer to a vacant full-time or regular part-time position in a lower pay level. The third affected employee may move to a vacant position but will not have bumping rights. Employees who become unemployed in a layoff will remain on the recall list for 15 months. (The town wanted just 12 months of recall rights.) Laid-off employees shall not be required to refund the town for any tuition reimbursements received. New language says that salaried employees can only bump salaried employees.

Employees who are promoted to a new position will go through a six month probationary period. Should they not meet the evaluation standards of that position after the six months they shall be returned to their former positions.

Because some members live in Rhode Island, there have been issues in the past over absence because of weather emergencies. Under the new agreement, if the governor of Rhode Island declares the roads closed, employees from Rhode Island will not lose pay for missing work on such day. If the Connecticut governor or the town manager close town hall because of weather, no employee will penalized in pay. An employee who unilaterally decides to leave work because of the weather but before a closing has been declared will have that time charged against them.

Sick leave can only be accrued to 200 hours. Employees who call off sick must do so no later than fifteen minutes before their shift starts.

The final months of these protracted negotiations were made more difficult after the town received notice from the state of funding cuts, which were some of the worst in the state. For a while the union was concerned that the final agreement might not be approved by the town council, but the town did ratify the agreement

The union negotiating team consisted of President Colin Kelly, Sue Palmer, Cathy Hoffman, Colin Kelly and Pam Kiley. They were assisted by UE Field Organizer Annie MacDonald.