MERIDEN — The City Council unanimously voted Monday to a reject a tentative three-year labor agreement with a union of city supervisors, meaning the deal will likely go to arbitration.
The council rejected the contract with United Public Service Employees Union, Local 424-Unit 48, after two councilors on the council’s ad hoc labor committee — Council Majority Leader David Lowell and Council Minority Leader Dan Brunet — said they did not support the annual 2 percent wage increases in the deal, along with other benefits.
The rejected agreement would have raised wages by 2 percent in each year of the three-year deal, resulting in a total wage increase of about $260,000 over three years, or about $85,000 annually. The contract would have been retroactive to July 1, 2018, and ran through June 30, 2021. The deal also included some changes expected to save the city money, including health insurance plan changes.
As members of the ad hoc labor committee, Brunet, a Republican, and Lowell, a Democrat, oversaw negotiations with the union. They both said they didn’t support the agreement during negotiations and didn’t know why a tentative agreement was signed by city staff earlier this year.
“Our last correspondence (with city staff) clearly stated that I was not in favor and also Councilor Lowell was also not in favor, and somehow it still went through,” Brunet said. “...Our last correspondence was June 22 from HR and (I don’t know) what happened after that.”
Lowell said he didn’t support the wage increases in the contract and Brunet said he wanted to see increases closer to 1.5 percent. Brunet also raised issues with other benefits in the deal “that have long-term ramifications,” like and longevity payments and compensatory time. Employees are given a certain amount of compensatory time annually and receive payouts for unused time upon retiring.
The supervisors union has approximately 50 members with some of the highest-salaries in the city work force, Brunet said. No union representatives spoke at Monday’s meeting.
The council’s Finance Committee voted 2-1 to recommend approval of the agreement last week, with Brunet the lone opposing vote. Finance Committee chairman Brian Daniels said he voted to recommend approval, along with fellow Democrat Miguel Castro, “simply to move it up to” the full council and receive input from Lowell, who is not on the Finance Committee and wasn't present at the committee's vote last week.
Daniels said Monday he wouldn’t support a labor contract that both members of the ad hoc committee didn’t support.
With the rejection, the deal will likely go to arbitration. During last week’s Finance Committee meeting, councilors recognized the city could end up with a worse contract if it went to arbitration. Former Human Resources Director Marci Nogueira, who resigned Friday, told councilors last week that some of the recently-arbitrated settlements between comparable supervisor unions and other Connecticut municipalities included higher wage increases than the ones in the deal rejected Monday. Other settlements Nogueira cited included annual increases below 2 percent.
Some councilors wanted to postpone voting on the contract until a later meeting, but City Manager Tim Coon said the vote needed to be taken Monday because the council had 44 days to take action from the time the tentative agreement was signed and the council’s next meeting was scheduled after the 44 days expired. Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn told councilors Monday that they couldn’t make amendments to the tentative agreement.