FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Fairfield will have to pay its emergency dispatchers more money over the next two years, but those same employees will have to give more back to the town to cover benefits.
The town’s government is voting on a deal with the Communication Workers of America to renew a labor contract that had been expired for two full years.
“It’s time for us all to work together to come up with appropriate settlements that are affordable for municipalities,” said attorney Patrick McHale, who was hired to represent Fairfield in the negotiations. “I think you’ll see that this settlement does recognize that fact.”
The Communication Workers of America’s union represents 17 employees in Fairfield. All of them work in the town’s Emergency Communications Center, which fields Fairfield’s 911 calls. The last contract expired June 30, 2010.
The new deal would give the communicators’ union an instant 4 percent salary increase over the next year. Half of that would be retroactive to July 1, while the other 2 percent would go into effect once the contract was approved by the rest of the town government. The union would also get a 2.25 percent pay increase July 1, 2013, for the final year of the deal.
The town would not have to give the dispatchers a retroactive raise to cover the first two years of the contract, which technically dates to July 2010, McHale said.
“The important thing from the town’s point of view is to not have to come up with cash to cover retroactive pay raises,” McHale told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday. “And it’s an overall reasonable settlement, with an average of 1.5 percent raise a year.”
In exchange, any new union workers hired by the town would no longer be on a town-funded pension plan after retirement. Instead, they would pay into a 401(a) retirement plan more like those used in the private sector.
Employees in the union would also have higher copays and contributions to their health insurance plans. Instead of a flat fee set by the contract, dispatchers would pay a percentage of the town’s health care premiums and would pay more to add spouses and families.
“This is something that’s very important to the town,” McHale said. “It’s something the town’s been seeking since 2010.”
The dispatchers also agreed to fewer sick days. Long-tenured employees would get 22 days off per year instead of 30, while leave time for others drops from 20 to 16 days per year.
The new deal would cost the town an extra $26,000 through July 2013, and another $21,000 on top of that each year after that.
The union agreed to the contract last month. Both the Board of Selectmen and the Representative Town Meeting still need to sign off on the contract for it to be official. If the deal were approved, Fairfield would still be left with four unresolved labor disputes.