The city will save around $50,000 over the next three years thanks to a recent contract agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 93, Local 3092.
In a press conference this morning at City Hall, Mayor Setti Warren announced the agreement and underlined the hard work and collaboration by both the city and the union, which includes office and clerical employees (excluding department heads) for most city departments.
"I think the result proves the point I’ve been making all along, that if you treat your workforce with respect regardless of whether they are unionized or not, you get agreements that are good for workers and really good for the residents and taxpayers of this great city of Newton," Warren said.
To view video from the press conference, check out our media section to the right.
According to Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux, the plan with AFSCME will save the city money "over and above what the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) would have saved."
Lemieux said the city did extensive calculations to figure out potential GIC costs, including looking at the GIC's 6.4 percent growth rate, the city's working rates over the last decade, turnover rates as well as the rate of participation in the city's health plans.
After all those calculations, Lemieux said the "conservative estimate" of $50,000 still offers more savings than the GIC.
As for the future of GIC in the city, City Solicitor Donnalyn Kahn said there are still ongoing discussions with other unions and the city hopes to have "just as much success with them (as with AFSCME)."
"In terms of the GIC question, what we would hope to achieve is -- just as everyone has so eloquently stated here today -- is to really make those decisions ourselves rather than to be put in the position of needing to go into the GIC or some other program," Kahn said.
It's also hard to tell what the GIC would actually look like for the city, Kahn said, as the legislation hasn't been fully fleshed out yet.
With the city working under Proposition 2 1/2, Lemieux explained that the agreement is based on a 2 1/2 percent increase on salaries and health insurance combined. The AFSCME employees have also agreed to change their contribution rates over a three-year period as well as change their plan design.
The 184 AFSCME employees in Local 3092 made a "significant concession" with the contribution split, Lemieux said. New employees will have a 70/30 split on health care benefits while current employees will be phased out of the current 80/20 split over the next three years.
With the phased approach, Lemieux said the first year of the new plan will implement deductibles (currently, there are no deductibles) while staying at the 80/20 split. Next year, current employees will move to a 77/23 split and in year three a 75/25 split.
A "key part" to the agreement, Lemieux explained, is that the city contributes the same dollar value through its point of service plan as it will to its HMOs.
Local 3092 President Frank Greco echoed the sentiment of Warren and others present at the press conference, noting the tough concessions but honest and effective work done on both sides of the table.
"We did pretty well. The health changes were difficult -- very difficult -- and my members showed a lot of strength in voting for his contract," Greco said. "But the mayor was more than fair with us and it made my members very happy."
Greco also noted the "good stuff" in the contract, including several signing bonuses.
Jennifer Springer, Boston-area coordinator for AFSCME, also noted the hard work of both parties.
"We’ve demonstrated today that we can be part of the solution through collective bargaining," Springer said. "We don’t need to take those rights away, we can get it done at the table."