BURRILLVILLE — The Town Council has ratified a tentative contract agreement between the town and the union that represents Town Hall and other municipal government employees.
Town Manager Michael C. Wood told the council last week that after more than nine months of negotiations, town employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 94, Local 186 accepted a new contract that not only gives employees a less than 2 percent annual wage increase, but also gives back some management rights to the town.
"The negotiations were pretty successful," Wood said. "It's taken some time, but we finally ended up with a tentative agreement.”
Wood said of lot of what the town's bargaining team tried to do during negotiations was to get back some management rights and to bring back into the contract the ability for the town to have more control in employee hiring and the promotion process.
In addition to Wood, the town's negotiating team included Town Councilors Wallace F. Lees and Margaret "Peggy" Dudley.
"It's things like this that we didn't have in the past, which, in the bigger picture, is not only good for employees, but the town in general,” Wood said. “This allows us to hire the best people to fill these jobs and also gives incentives to employees to do well."
"Most of what we've done is looking toward the future," he added. "We've tried to change the benefits package so that some of the benefits that are currently being received by existing employees will be changed going forward."
For example, Wood said, the new contract reduces the employee vacation schedule as well as sick leave. The union, he said, has agreed to give up two holidays, plus a quarter of a holiday granted every four years (presidential election day).
"This will provide additional services because Town Hall will be open two more days," the town manager said.
For its part, the town has agreed to give employees a 25-cent wage increase every six months, or 50 cents per year for three years. This averages out to less than 2 percent a year.
Wood said both Council 94, Local 186 and the police union had already negotiated lower-cost health insurance plans, which saved the town a significant amount of money. As part of this new agreement with Council 94, Local 186, Wood said, the union has also agreed to include a 15-percent co-pay for new employees.
"Those things will take time to transition in, but in the bigger picture, the town will be better off for it," Wood told the town council. "It may not be immediate, but the savings will be substantial."