Blue collar employees of the Town of Berlin have a new three-year contract that will run through June 2018. The workers are members of Sub-local 52 of UE Local 222. The union consists primarily of employees of the Public Works Department, golf course, Parks and Recreation, and the town’s custodians.
Negotiations started late, and the town then quickly declared impasse under Connecticut’s public sector bargaining law after just three meetings and requested state mediation. With the State of Connecticut down to one mediator on its payroll, precious months passed with no progress toward an agreement. After several uneventful months, the union made an off-the-record package proposal to the town which got negotiations started again, and quickly leading to an agreement. The tentative agreement was ratified by an overwhelming majority of the membership.
On wages, the agreement includes a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2015, a 1 percent raise effective July 1, 2016, and a 2.75 percent raise effective July 1, 2017.
The new contract increases the uniform allowance by $25 a year. Employees can now carry over as many as 40 hours vacation into the following fiscal year. However any vacation rolled over from the prior year must be used by November 30.
Among the many gains, the union protected seniority by eliminating a contract provision that gave temporary employees seniority should they be permanently hired by the Town, including as part of their seniority time working for the Town when they were not members of the union. The union also reduced, from two years to 15 months, the length of time the employer could use temporary employees to replace a union member out on long term illness or disability. The new agreement also limits the use of non-union seasonal golf course employees to a maximum of four employees, to be employed only from March to November.
The employer has been able to require an independent medical examination when appropriate. However under new contract language, during this process the employee cannot be charged sick days nor will the employee suffer a loss in pay.
The contract eliminates the requirement to provide a doctor’s note for use of a partial day’s sick time. Verbal warnings are added to the disciplinary steps. New language strengthens the grievance procedure.
The contract contains one concession, eliminating for employees hired after July 1, 2016 extra pay when working with certain chemicals and paints. These new employees will still receive the extra pay when removing or disturbing lead paint. Current employees and golf course employees were grandfathered in and will continue to receive the extra pay when working with chemicals and paint.
For the union the contract was negotiated by President William DeBlasio with the assistance of UE Field Organizer Michael Lewis.