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Newton Mayor Setti Warren announces 3-year union pact

Posted by Leslie Anderson  May 11, 2011 04:35 PM

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Newton Mayor Setti Warren won praise from a local union today with the signing of a new contract, just two days after he unveiled his candidacy to unseat US Senator Scott Brown.

Warren announced this morning that the city had ratified a three-year agreement with a union that represents 184 employees, including library staff, Planning Department staff, and administrative employees in most departments.

The contract institutes health plan deductibles, increases co-payments, and gradually shifts a little more of the premium from the city to employees. The agreement looks at salaries and health care as parts of the compensation package, according to the press release, and that package will increase by 2.5 percent annually.

“Unfortunately, some municipal leaders continue to stand at arm’s length from the negotiating table in the hope that the legislature will weaken or even eliminate our ability to negotiate health insurance benefits. Mayor Warren is different,” said union representative Jen Springer, Boston metro area coordinator for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, in a press release from the mayor’s office.

“He respects our collective bargaining rights and like our members, he is willing to do the hard work necessary to achieve an agreement that is both fair to the workers and the taxpayers."

In a follow-up phone interview, Springer said that employees like Warren.

“He’s been straightforward and honest and he really did engender trust from them,” she said.

Asked about Warren's run against Brown, Springer said, “I think it’s exciting. We have to see what the field looks like. He seems like someone with a lot of positive energy. We think he has good ideas and he believes in public service and doing the right thing for working families.”

Warren said he was pleased with the agreement because it brings labor costs in line with revenues.

“That is critical for the City of Newton moving forward,” he said in the release. “I think the result proves the point I have been making all along – that if you treat your workforce with respect – regardless of whether they are unionized or not – then you can get agreements that are good for the workers – and really good for the residents and taxpayers of Newton."

There are 17 unions in the city. Fifteen other unions, eight on the city side and seven in the school department, are still in the process of negotiations. The only other union, police superiors, has a contract expiring soon and will also head back to the bargaining table, according to Maureen Lemieux, Newton’s chief financial officer.

“The mayor has been extremely involved in this process,” she said.

Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.

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