Parks Union Contract OK’d

Workers who trim trees and clean city parks will see pay raises, but new hires won’t get medical benefits after they retire.

That’s one of the takeaways from an arbitration decision on the city’s labor contract with Local 71, which covers about 63 blue-collar city workers, from tree-trimmers and bridge-tenders to mechanics and maintenance men. Local 71 is part of UE Local 222, CILU/CIPU, an independent union.

The city and the union had been negotiating on a new contract for three years. At an impasse, the matter went to arbitration, where a three-person panel settled all the sticking points on Nov. 12.

The Board of Aldermen Monday night voted unanimously to approve the arbitration panel’s decision.

The city will save $70,000 over the remainder of the contract, which ends July 1, 2015, city spokeswoman Anna Mariotti said. 

The panel ruled on 34 separate issues, some of which contained as many eight sub-issues. Click here to see a summary of the decisions. Click here to see a spreadsheet of changes.

Local 71 President Dominic Magliochetti said his union did relatively well, compared to other city bargaining units. “A lot of the stuff we kept, they lost,” he said. The new contract maintains language on subcontracting and vacations, Magliochetti pointed out. Local 71 won on about half of the issues, he said.

The union didn’t win on pensions, nor did it end up with the wage increase he would have liked to see, Magliochetti said. “We’re the lowest-paid local in the city. They didn’t even want to look at that part,” he said. “We’re blue-collar workers. We’re out in the elements day in and day out.” Union members currently make between $36,000 and $58,000 per year.

The union didn’t win retroactive pay increases. The contract, which covers fiscal years fiscal year 2010-11 to fiscal year 2014-15, includes pay raises of 0, 0, 3, 2, and 2 percent respectively for each year.

The new contract brings Local 71’s pension and medical benefits in line with other recent union contracts, Mariotti said in a release.

The union will now have a tiered pension system, with bigger changes for newer employees. Workers with less than 10 years experience as of July 1, 2010, will not have overtime factored into their pension, and they will have to be over 62 years old and their age plus number of years worked will have to total 85 before they can retire with full benefits.

Local 71 will have the same medical plans that other union recently agreed to: “a choice of plans that includes a high deductible health plan with premium cost sharing options ranging from 9 percent for the high deductible plan to 21.25 percent.”

Also: “Employees with less than 10 years of service as of July 1, 2010 will have retiree medical coverage for only themselves and not for a spouse. New hires will not be eligible for retiree medical benefits.”

Mariotti highlighted a number of other changes:

• “The penalty for early retirement has been increased to 3.5 percent per year for those hired after July 1, 2013.

• “Buy back of unused sick leave for pension credit eliminated for those hired after 11-8-13.

• “The cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase for employees with less than 20 years of service as of July 1, 2010 will be lowered to 2 percent annually and capped at 20 percent over a lifetime. ...

• “The elimination of meal allowance payments.

• “Elimination of longevity pay for new employees.”

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