Claremont public works has new contract

Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, April 28, 2019

CLAREMONT — The city’s public works employees soon will be working under a new three-year contract following a protracted negotiation between union and municipal officials.

Last week, the City Council approved the agreement, which takes effect on July 1 and gives union workers an 8% pay increase over the life of the contract.

Interim city manager John MacLean said the first increase of 1.5 percent will take effect on Sept. 1, and a second increase of 1.25 percent will kick in on Jan. 1. There will be three subsequent increases after that at six month intervals.

Key to the successful negotiation was no change in the employees’ health insurance coverage, which was a sticking point during negotiations with former City Manager Ryan McNutt. The agreement ends the stalemate that appeared to have no end in sight a few months ago.

“We were at impasse,” Chris Kilmer, the union representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in an email Saturday.

Last fall, Kilmer asked the City Council to order McNutt, who was fired by the council in early January, to continue negotiations after two offers were rejected by the union.

Kilmer said at the time, pay increases would have also required the union to accept a cost increase for members’ health insurance that he said would have eaten up the wage increase. He said McNutt delivered a “take it or leave it,” message to the union.

“Our biggest complaint at that time was the lack of respect and negotiations not being an exchange or a series of compromises, but being told ‘take it or leave it’ from Mr. McNutt,” Kilmer said Saturday. “We are appreciative of the City Council and Mr. MacLean resuming negotiations in a mutually respectful setting.”

McNutt last fall disagreed with Kilmer’s interpretation. He said an offer in June had a 1 to 3 percent pay increase and was not tied to any change in health insurance.

“If your highest goal is to maintain the generous health plan, you have to concede some of the wage increases,” McNutt said at a council meeting last fall. “They didn’t accept that.”

The DPW had agreed to accept no raises in 2017 under former City Manager Guy Santagate, in exchange for health insurance staying the same. That agreement expired the end of 2017.

According to Kilmer, the union was able to reach a six-month agreement with a stipend that expires on June 30 this year.

“We are currently in a 6-month contract for January 1,2019 through June 30, 2019 and are very pleased with the outcome of our latest negotiations resulting in a 3-year contract,” Kilmer wrote. “At this time the City is not looking to change insurance. We have agreed to work with the City in the future as a partner in trying to control health insurance costs.”

According to the city’s finance department, the DPW contract will cost $31,882 the first year for salary and benefits; $48,900 the second and $52,020 the final year.

The City Council also approved a three-year contract with the clerical union. Employees will receive 2.5 percent pay increase in each year with no change in the health insurance plan. That contract has a first year cost of $12,879 for salary and benefits; $16,808 in the second year and $16,217 in the third year.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com