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Article 12 is exactly the “unsustainable” problem

April 25, 2012

Article 12 of Spring Town Meeting, starting on May 7, will be a vote to approve a new collective bargaining contract (.pdf) with the town’s clerical union to expire in 2014. Town officials are talking this up as a great cost-savings to the town because they’ve reduced health care costs. Unfortunately, these savings are only the tip of the iceberg.

The contract that is up for approval includes longevity bonuses and annual raises. Here is one provision that should be thrown out of the contract:

Article XVI: Longevity Pay Plan
Longevity pay will be made to employees for continuous full time employment in accordance with the following schedule:
After five (5) years of service: $350
After ten (10) years of service: $450
After fifteen (15) years of service: $550
After twenty (20) years of service: $650
After twenty five (25) years of service: $750

To put it in layman’s terms, the above requires that the town pay out bonuses to clerical employees after they have served for five years, ten years, and so on until they have worked for 25 years. These bonuses are not tied to performance – it just requires the employee stick around to cash in. After 25 years, an employee is not necessarily doing their job better than they were in their tenth year on the job. One would assume that if they have managed to stay for 25 years they must be doing their job correctly because they haven’t been terminated but that does not warrant a bonus.

These types of bonuses are unheard of in the private sector.

This is exactly the type of compensation plan that is “unsustainable.” About five years from now, or even before that, the town is going to be in a fiscal crisis again (unless we right our ship now), and everyone is going to wonder why. Answer: Because we approved these contracts back in 2012 and this contract sets in stone that personnel costs must go up every year no matter how much state aid we get or which way the economy goes. This is unacceptable.

This is exactly why personnel costs keep going up year-after-year and our town officials thrown up their hands and say there is nothing they can do. Actually, there is something they can do: say no to the longevity bonuses. Another step is to take these bonuses out of the town’s personnel bylaws.

The proposed contract also includes 2 percent annual raises. Again, these raises are not tied to performance. Because the clerical union makes up such a small part of the total town payroll, these raises will cost only about $10,000 per year – but every dime adds up during a $3 million fiscal crisis.

Article 12 should be thrown out. Time to go back to the negotiating table.

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