RTM OKs contracts for police officers, school administrators
GREENWICH — As it considered new labor contracts for Greenwich police officers and school administrators, the Representative Town Meeting on Monday night broke with recent tradition by actually approving them.
The RTM overwhelmingly approved a four-year labor contract with the Silver Shield Association, which represents town police officers, and a three-year contract with the Greenwich Organization of School Administrators.
The recent policy of the RTM has been to not vote on contracts but rather defer the vote. That way, the contracts would automatically go into effect without the RTM’s approval.
That strategy was used in contracts with the town’s Teamsters, the Firefighters Local 1042 and LIUNA Local 136. Those decisions — to let the contracts go into effect without vote — came after the RTM rejected the initial contract with the Teamsters in December 2016.
On Monday night, the contracts passed muster with the RTM. Both were approved by votes of 181-2. The police contract was praised for creating a new kind of retirement plan for new hires, moving them to defined contribution plans that lessen the town’s obligation to fund retirement benefits.
“It is a key reform for the long-term fiscal sustainability of the town’s ever-growing, so-called fixed costs,” said Lucia Jansen, chair of the RTM’s Budget Overview Committee. The fixed costs, which are largely made up of health care and pension costs, make up 25 percent of the town’s operating budget.
The police contract is retroactive to July 1, 2017, and lasts through June 30, 2021. It covers 145 members of the Greenwich Police Department at the ranks of police officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant. Positions such as captain, deputy chief and chief are not part of the union.
The contract has a retroactive 2.25 percent salary increase for 2017, followed by a 1.5 percent increase for 2018, 1.95 percent for 2019 and 2.05 percent starting July 1, 2020. The contract also makes official the previously interim agreement to shift the union members off the town’s health insurance plan and onto the state’s plan, which represented a $1 million cost savings for the town last fiscal year.
The current defined benefit retirement plan will be closed to new hires effective Jan. 1, 2019. After that date, new hires will go into a defined contribution plan in which the town and the employee both contribute to the employee’s retirement benefits instead of the town being solely responsible for the cost. RTM members said that will bring significant savings to the town.
“We see this as a positive thing,” said Josh Brown, chair of the RTM’s Labor Contracts Committee.
“We really want to send a strong message of support for the move of police to a defined contribution plan and hopefully, we will move there with the fire department in their next contract,” said Rob Perelli-Minetti, chair of the RTM’s Finance Committee.
Richard Neuman, chair of the RTM’s Town Services Committee, expressed caution over past warnings that the move to a defined contribution plan would cause new officers, after they have completed their training and initial obligation to the town, to move to other departments that still have defined benefit plans.
Neuman said he had been assured by town Director of Labor Relations Al Cava that the town would monitor this.
“Two or three years out we want to make sure our officers are staying here,” he said. “If we train them, we want long-term officers.”
The school administrators’ contract did not have to go to arbitration, but was rather resolved through mediation.
The GOSA contract, which covers 55 public school principals, assistant principals and other administrators, will cover from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2022. It has a 1.90 percent wage increase in the first year and 2.05 percent increases in the second and third years. It also includes $1,250 base salary increases for the first two years for elementary school principals to make Greenwich more competitive with other Fairfield County school districts.
Jansen noted a positive trend in town labor contracts since the Teamster contract was rejected by the RTM. She praised the moderated general wage increases in the GOSA contract as well as the increase in employee co-sharing for health care costs.
Brown noted the Silver Shield contract represented the end of a cycle of contracts with all of the town’s labor unions. The GOSA contract was the first one of the new cycle.
“All of the labor contracts are in negotiation through the next calendar year,” Brown said. “They all take off in the next six to nine months. It will be an interesting time.”