Joe Clerkin announced that he’s leaving the city, while attending to a final piece of business—helping to shepherd through approval of two more municipal labor contracts.
Clerkin, a 28-year city employee who has served as budget chief since 2011, broke the news Monday night at a meeting of the Board of Alders Finance Committee, where he testified about the financial details of two newly struck five-year labor agreements with UPSEU Local 424, representing 80 public works employees, and AFSCME Council 4 Local 1303-467, a group of 36 public health nurses.
Clerkin said his last day will be July 28. He later called the decision to leave an economic one: “My wife and I determin[ed] that a new employment opportunity would best serve our family’s future.” He called it an “honor” to have “served the citizens of New Haven” in the Harp administration. his deputy, Michael Gormany, will fill in as budget chief while the mayor seeks a permanent replacement.
The two municipal unions, meanwhile, have been working without a contract for one year, in one case; and two in the other. The Finance Committee, in order to speed up approval of the deals, didn’t vote on them Monday night; rather they forwarded them to the full Board of Alders to consider at its next meeting as a “committee of the whole.” (That allows the board to vote right away rather than do a “first reading” and wait another month.)
One contract will allow public health nurses, who work predominantly at public public schools, to disaffiliate from Local 884, which primarily represents clerical workers. No members of either union attended the hearing; city-hired outside labor attorney Floyd Dugas, who did attend, speculated that the opportunity to have a dominant voice in negotiations drove the nurses to create their own union.
The contract shortens the nurses’ workday to seven hours from seven and a half. Previously, these nurses were allotted an unpaid 30 minutes for lunch, but oftentimes the school nurses were unable to take this time off.
The contract adjusts the nurses’ rankings on their salary scale to account for the length of time worked in the city. According to Dugas, the change roughly averages to the same percentage increase as in the public works employees contract, where wages increase 0 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.25 percent, and 2.5 percent in each of the five years. However, the new salary levels are retroactive since the collective bargaining agreement applies to July 2016 through the end of June 2021. Dugas estimated the increased overall annual cost to the city at about $50,000 a year.
This contract received a unanimous approval from the nurses. Alders Monday night still questioned the city’s high turnover among public health nurses; the average span of work in New Haven is five years. Hill Alder Dolores Colón recalled hearing nurses struggle to balance obligations at multiple different sites; oftentimes these nurses would be working at several different locations throughout the day. Though the city pays competitive wages, Dugas hypothesized that these workers would rather move to Madison and other neighboring towns even with New Haven’s relatively high wages.
Under the contract, public works employees will receive a retroactive bonus in 2016 wages, as the 0 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.25 percent, and 2.5 percent wage increase plan applies to July 2015 through the end of June 2021. The contract, which represents approximately 80 employees and $4.2 million in salary count, will cost the city roughly $100,000 more per year for five years, estimated Clerkin.
According to Dugas, Public Works Director Jeff Pescosolido sought the ability to employ experienced outside hires for more complicated highway construction. However, sanitation workers soughtthe ability to switch over to highway work. Under the agreement, the city can employ two outside hires at the next available opening.
The nurses voted about 2-1 to approve their contract.
The major goal for the city was the new health incentive plan, which is included in both contracts, according to Dugas. Employees would be required to receive physicals, go to the dentist, and talk to insurance about chronic conditions to avert costs of preventative conditions. The plan was already included in the approved parks department union and clerical worker union contracts.
The board previously approved a contract for nonmanagerial workers. The city is still negotiating new contracts with the police union, the supervisors’ union, and the attorneys union.