Middlebury town employees sign three-year pact

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Middlebury and its 38 unionized workers have come to terms on a new, three-year contract that will afford employees annual pay increases of 2 percent but require them to contribute a little more toward their health insurance premiums.
The pact, retroactive to this past July 1, applies to fiscal years 2013 through 2015, according to Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay. It applies to the various public works, clerical, police and library workers unionized under American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (ASCFME) Local 1201 of Council 93.
The contract does not include the municipality’s 15 non-unionized workers.
“I think it is a pretty good deal,” said Verna Watson, chapter chair of ASCFME Local 1201. “I think it was a good settlement for both parties.”
Ramsay said contract negotiations began last March. When the sides were unable to make substantial progress, they agreed to bring in an independent mediator to help move things along. That mediator came on board Sept. 26 and was able to help bring the sides together that very day, according to Ramsay.
“I would say the negotiations were fairly amicable,” Ramsay said. “I think both sides learned a lot in the process, heard each others’ concerns and issues, and met in the middle.”
Major terms of the contract, according to Ramsay, include:
•  Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases of 2 percent during each of the three years of the pact. This was an advance for employees compared to terms of the previous contract, negotiated during tougher economic times. That two-year agreement, reached during the fall of 2010, called for a wage freeze (and no change in health benefits) during the first year. In year two, workers were granted a COLA adjustment of 1.5 percent. Also during that second year union employers were asked to assume 1-percent more of their health insurance premiums.
•  A requirement that union workers again pay a little more of their health care premiums, beginning in the final year of the pact. The town’s responsibility for the insurance premium payment at that time will decrease from the current 86 percent to 85 percent, according to Ramsay.
The new agreement will not cover the 15 town workers who have elected not to be part of the union, Ramsay noted. Those employees’ salary raises are decided annually by the selectboard, based on prevailing economic trends in the Northeast. The board voted them a 2-percent COLA salary increase that took effect July 1.
Non-union employees currently pay 10 percent of their health insurance premium, according to Ramsay. She added town officials have elected to maintain this lower health insurance premium rate for non-union workers in recognition of the fact that they did not get raises during some of the slow economic times, while union employees did. This has been a sore subject at times during negotiations, according to union officials.
The hammering out of a contract comes at a good time for municipal budget planners.
“It was great for us going into next year’s budget to have those factors known, so we can set them in the budget and have the stability over the next two years,” Ramsay said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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