Fairfield's approved on Monday a labor contract between the town and the Emergency Communications Center's dispatchers.
The contract concerns Fairfield's 17 dispatchers, who are part of the local union branch of the Communications Workers of America. The pact contained a few wage increases and several concessions that could save Fairfield money in the long run.
"I support this contract...a lot of concessions were made," RTM member Nick Mirabile, R-9, said. "It sets a good precedent for negotiations and gives our town the ability to make changes as we see fit."
The terms of the contract are as follows, outlined by attorney Patrick McHale at the July 11 Board of Selectmen meeting (McHale represents the town in labor negotiations):
- This is a four-year term contract instead of a three-year contract to avoid numerous contracts expiring at the same time, a situation the town faced this year. The contract runs from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014;
- There will be no retroactive wage increases to cover the first two years of the contract, which dates back to June 2010, when the former contract expired. Instead, the contract puts in place a 2 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2012, and a 2 percent increase upon ratification by the RTM;
- There will be a 2.25 percent increases in July 2013, totaling a 6.25 percent increase over the life of the contract, or a 1.5 percent-per-year increase in wages;
- The union agreed to higher insurance copays, fewer paid sick days per year; and higher healthcare contributions based on utilization;
- Standard, operational procedures are no longer mandated to be negotiated and can be determined by police department, rather than on the table during collective bargaining;
- The town will no longer pay a full salary for up to 30 days in workers' compensation should an employee be injured on duty. Instead, the town will pay two-thirds of the employee's full salary for up to 30 days and the employee can supplement that income with sick leave days;
- Employees hired on or after July 1, 2012 will move from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution 401(a) retirement plan.
Overall, the contract will cost Fairfield an additional $26,000 through July 2013 and then $21,000 for the remaining year.
The agreement passed in a 35-6 vote with no abstentions. RTM members Joe Palmer, R-4, Carol Pontrelli, R-9, Ellen Jacob, R-9, Hank Ference, R-3, Carolyn Richmond, R-1, and Mary McCullough, R-3, opposed it.
While Jacob expressed her appreciation for the union's progress, she argued it was too slow to battle the effects of a poor economy on the town's taxpayers.
"Do the employees deserve increases? Yes...What about the other workers in town -- do they get increases? No. Progress is slow. Are we going to survive as a town with slow progress?"
But Ed Bateson, R-3, pointed out that, as an employer, he knows the value of maintaining quality people in important positions.
"There are other people in this room besides us as taxpayers," he said, referring to the members of the dispatchers' union sitting in the Board of Education conference room. "I want to maintain quality people."
"If you want to keep good people, you have to pay them, give them decent benefits," Kevin Hoffkins, D-7, added. "These are our dispatchers, I want to keep good people."