NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP >> The board of supervisors on Feb. 27 voted to approve a five year collective bargaining agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents the townshipâs Public Works employees.
Under the new contract, effective March 1, wages will increase three percent over the first four years and 3.25 percent in year five of the agreement.
Medical benefit costs in the first three years will be fixed at five percent increases with a contract opener for years four and five to negotiate rate increases for those years.
And all new hires will be required to join the townshipâs Defined Contribution Plan, and will not be eligible to join the Defined Benefit Pension Plan.
Also under the new contract, employees with 30 years of service will be eligible for six weeks of paid vacation; however, the vacation schedule will now require 13 years of service to be eligible for four weeks paid vacation and 23 years of services for five weeks paid vacation. The existing contract provided four weeks and five weeks of paid vacation after 12 years and 22 years, respectively.
Other contract highlights include:
– The probationary period for new hires is six months instead of six months and two weeks;
– The annual boot allowance will increase from $200 to $225 per year;
– The annual clothing allowance will increase from $400 to $500 per year; and
– New hires will be eligible for a life insurance policy after 30 days of employment instead of after six months of employment.
The township and the union also agreed to certain language changes that clarify the existing contract terms. The changes have no monetary impact to the township, but will help avoid misinterpretation of the contract terms by both parties, and potentially avoid costly grievances and arbitration.
âNegotiations were very cordial. We had a good exchange,â said township manager Robert Pellegrino. âThis is a very fair contract. And it benefits both sides.
âIâve done a lot of negotiations over the past 40 years in collective bargaining and this is one of the best sessions Iâve had,â he said. âThey (the union representatives) deserve a lot of credit for being reasonable.â
Michael Grant, of IUOE Local 542C, thanked the supervisors for ratifying the agreement and said it was a pleasure working with the township manager and the negotiating team.
âI donât usually say this about contract negotiations that it was a pleasure doing it, but this was a pleasure,â said Grant. âIn all my years of doing this, this is probably the first time Iâm saying this was a pleasure.
âMr. Pellegrino and his negotiating staff were very moralistic,â he continued. âThey looked at things and came back to me and they understood the needs of both sides.â
As they cast their votes unanimously for the agreement, the supervisors praised the department for its hard work, from making road repairs to mowing grass and plowing snow.
âThese guys really work hard,â said Supervisor Adam Selisker. âFor all the things you see them doing, there are about 100 things a day that they do that you donât see. Thatâs why our township operates so well.â
âYou guys do a wonderful job,â added Supervisor Dr. Kimberly Rose, âespecially when we have a snow storm. Northampton looks the best of any town around,â she said. Rose also gave a shout out to Pellegrino âon an excellent job” negotiating the contract. “I just wanted to give him a very big thank you for making this a good process.â
Supervisor Frank OâDonnell, who served as liaison to the department during his first two years on the board, joined the board in publicly commending the public works employees.
âWe have a great staff and weâre very fortunate to have them,â he said.
Supervisor Eileen Silver agreed, adding that itâs a âpleasure to know that we have a unionized Public Works Department that works so well with the township.
âYou guys have shown us that you can have a union that will protect you, but youâre also protecting us because thatâs the way you guys are. You look out for every resident of this township. I am glad we are able to sit here tonight and ratify this contract.â
The township manager joined in on the praise, adding, âThese guys rock. Theyâre the best public works department in the area.â