2014-03-21 / Community

South Portland signs new contract with parks, public works employees

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council on March 17 approved a new deal with 30 employees of the park and public works departments who have been working without a contract since July 2012.

The agreement, between the city and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, will last through June 30, 2015. It grants a 1.5 percent increase in base wages retroactive to July 1, 2012, a 2 percent pay hike retroactive to March 1, and a new 2 percent raise effective July 1. It also increases the differential paid when working outside a regular 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift from 35 cents to 40 cents per hour and reduced the hours needed for an 8 percent pay hike when assigned work above one’s job classification from eight to four hours per day. Meanwhile, the replacement tool allowance for mechanics was raised from $250 to $400 per year.

However, the union also gave up some ground on health insurance.The employee contribution for premiums rose to 1.5 percent effective Jan. 1, while child and family plan contributions rose to 11 and 15 percent, respectively. The city plans to switch to a new plan offered by the Maine Municipal Association starting Jan. 1, 2015. That program has city-funded a health reimbursement arrangement for employees’ out-of-pocket expenses that Human Resources Director Don Brewer said provides a tax advantage that should offset health insurance costs.

The union also agreed to freeze next year’s “cash-in-lieu” payment made to employees who get their health insurance elsewhere at current rates, while accepting a 35 percent reduction in that rate for anyone hired after July 1.

“I think it shows a lot of consideration to the city from the people who were willing to give those concessions,” said Councilor Linda Cohen.

According to Brewer, the increase in costs over the three-year life of the contract will run to $154,775. That includes $25,188 for the previous fiscal year, $36,384 for the current year, and $93,203 for the fiscal year to begin July 1.

Beyond the big-ticket changes there were smaller amendments throughout the document, Brewer said.

“We made a significant rewrite of just about every article in the contract,” he said, noting changes such as a future requirement that all new hires have at least a Class B driver’s license.

“It looks like everyone gave a little, and everyone got a little,” said Mayor Jerry Jalbert.

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