By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — A new contract for public works employees includes a 9.75% salary increase this fiscal year Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said is necessary to retain employees and bring salaries in line with other municipalities.
The contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2018, and runs through June 30, 2022, was unanimously approved by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and signed by the union earlier this month.
Under the contract, employees received a 9.75% wage increase this fiscal year, which included a one-time 7.25% pay adjustment. The increase cost the borough an additional $183,238 this fiscal year, according to Human Resources Director John Lawlor.
Hess said the adjustment was made to make salaries for public works employees more competitive with similar and surrounding municipalities.
Before the adjustment, the borough paid a driver/laborer, for example, an hourly rate of $25.80, according to information provided by Hess. In comparison, Beacon Falls and Prospect both paid employees more than $29 an hour, while Seymour and Middletown paid more than $35 an hour.
After the adjustment, a driver/laborer in Naugatuck makes $30.50.
Hess said the one-time adjustment will also help to retain employees. He said the borough recently lost three workers to other towns and three more are on waiting lists for other jobs.
Over the past few years, public works has done more construction work in-house for the borough, which had led to hiring less outside contractors and has saved money, Hess said. He said officials have focused on turning the department into more of a “construction unit” by purchasing equipment and hiring people who are more qualified for construction work.
“I think that we have without any question an incredibly strong unit that has been underpaid for a long period of time and now they are getting paid a fair wage, even though it is less than surrounding towns,” Hess said.
The contract retroactively awarded employees 2.5% raises for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fiscal year years. Employees will receive a 2.5% raise in the last year of the deal.
The contract offers employees health care with an annual deductible of $2,000/$4,000 in network for the duration of the agreement. Under the agreement, the borough is contributing 25% of the deductible this calendar year. Employees are responsible for all of the deductible in 2021 and 2022.
Employees are paying 3% of the premium cost share for insurance this year, and will pay 1% in 2021 and 2% in 2022.
Lawlor said the net cost of the four-year contract is an additional $335,286.
Matthew Harley, president of the public works union, said the department’s transition to doing more construction work will save money for the borough.
Employee retention was a big factor when negotiating the contract as well, he said, due to three good workers leaving for jobs in other municipalities.
“The contract on a whole is a good thing for the guys and a good thing for the town,” Harley said. “I’m really proud to be a part of it.”