BRISTOL - The city and the Bristol Professional Supervisors Association have agreed on a new four-year contract.
The union represents 48 city department heads and management-level supervisors.
“The city and union negotiating teams worked on many issues at the bargaining table,” said Bill Wolfe, a Department of Public Works supervisor who serves as president of the BPSA bargaining unit. “Health care and benefits were a big part of the discussion as their costs continue to rise. In recognition of these increasing costs, the parties have agreed to switch to a high-deductible health care plan with a health savings account component.”
According to Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, these city employees will continue to pay “market-appropriate” premium cost share increases. They will pay 14.75 percent year one, 15.75 percent year two, 16.25 percent year three and 17.25 percent year four.
Additionally, union members who retire beginning in 2020 will fund their own health savings accounts.
“This will result in significant long-term savings as the first $2,000 for an individual or $4,000 for an employee and spouse of medical costs will be paid by the retiree,” said City Comptroller Diane Waldron, who participated in the negotiation sessions. “Currently, the entire cost of retiree health is paid by the city.”
The city will maintain the currently offered health insurance plan, but city employees who do not switch to the high-deductible health care plan in year two of the contract will have to pay the difference with a “buy-up provision” under the terms of the agreement.
The new contract also institutes modified retirement benefits for new employees hired after July 2018 which changes how pensions are calculated and also puts in a cap.
“Pension reform was high on our list of priorities after seeing the General Retirement Fund dip below 100 percent funded last year,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “The fund needs to be solvent for the future retirements of all eligible city employees and these are two changes that will ensure that.”
Zoppo-Sassu said that in exchange for restructuring their health insurance and retirement benefits, the union asked for and secured “improvements around contractual language affecting day to day working conditions.” It provided opportunities for new employees to purchase vacation time since employees have to accrue time before taking it, the ability to use some sick leave for the care or illness of immediate family members, expanded short term disability benefits, and bereavement language acknowledging step-family members.
The wage increases over four years are 2.24 percent in the first year, 2.25 percent in the second year, 2.5 percent in the third year and 2.5 percent in the fourth year.
“A competitive seventh salary step was also created for PSA members to work toward, and as a way for the city to retain talented employees who often look elsewhere after Bristol has invested in their training and certifications because other municipalities pay higher salaries than Bristol,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “This contract also fully eliminates an old provision of the contract where members received a $1,000 bonus on the anniversary of their hiring date. While it had a sunset provision in a previous contract, there were 16 members still receiving it. The performance bonus is now fully eliminated.”
Zoppo-Sassu said that the union and the city of Bristol will continue to discuss “efficiencies”, and the merging of job duties over the next year. Two BPSA union positions have been eliminated to date.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.