A three-year contract with the town was ratified Thursday in a unanimous vote by the 27-member union, which also includes some employees in the town and the custodians in Town Hall.
If the Darien Representative Town Meeting approves the contract, it would increase wages by 1.75 percent in the first year (which ends June 30, 2012), then 2.5 percent the second year and 2.25 in the third.
The agreement comes after town and union negotiators were able to remove an impasse in negotiations that had sent the process into arbitration. The town is still in negotiations with the police and Town Hall employee unions.
The new contract, which would be retroactive to July 1, 2011, will change health care benefits to a less expensive plan already used by Town Hall union employees and heads of town departments, said Town Administrative Officer Karl F. Kilduff in a memorandum sent out Friday to to selectmen.
For the first two years of the contract, employees will contribute 15 percent to the health insurance premiums, then 15.5 percent in the third year.
"Based on current rates of enrollment, the savings to the town in Year 2 of contract exceeds $29,000," Kilduff said. Kilduff did not mention the overall cost of the contract in his memorandum or in a brief interview on Friday.
Darien Public Schools officials have said in the past about their own health insurance contract with teachers that savings from negotiated provisions in new labor contract agreements may be lessened or even wiped out by increases in insurance rates.
They've added, however, that the new rates will still save taxpayers money compared with what insurance might have cost.
A voluntary high-deductible health savings account plan will be started for the employees as an alternative to the traditional PPO plan.
Contract itself still under wraps
Kilduff said Friday afternoon that although the union employees voted on the contract, town officials weren't yet prepared to release it until they could confirm that the union had agreed to the contract's exact terms.
Jack Whiteherd, president of the union, could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. The official name of the union is "Darien Public Works Union of Local 1303-292 of Connecticut Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO," according to the last contract, which expired June 30.
Although the matter is up for a vote at the Board of Selectmen's meeting tonight, board members have only been sent a memo from Kilduff describing the contract, not the contract itself.
The selectmen's vote is described on the agenda as "Discuss and take action on consideration of public works union successor agreement and refer same to the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting." The Board of Selectman's vote doesn't itself approve the contract, nor does the Board of Finance—the RTM's vote is the one that counts, he said.
Copies of labor contracts have not always been distributed to Darien RTM members before they vote on them, Kilduff said. The recent teachers contract was not distributed to RTM members, for instance. That three-year contract was worth roughly three times the entire annual operating budget for town departments other than Darien Public Schools.
Before that vote was taken, Darien Patch published a copy of the teachers contract.
According to the town website, the union "represents most of the employees in the Highway, Sewer, and Parking Divisions of the Public Works Department as well as the park maintainers in the Park and Recreation Department."