The City of Hartford Professional Employees Association has ratified a contract that includes general wage freezes, an increase in worker pension contributions and a switch to a high-deductible health care plan that, combined, would save Hartford about $630,000 over the life of the four-year deal.
The agreement allows the 46 workers to continue receiving step increases — raises that union workers get over time if they are not at the top of their salary range. City officials said the increases are built into all of Hartford’s labor contracts.
CHPEA’s deal, which runs from July 1, 2016, when its last contract expired, through June 30, 2020, also includes a crackdown on sick leave accrual and retiree health insurance. New employees can accumulate no more than 80 sick days, and those with less than 10 years of experience will get reduced payouts for unused sick time.
Workers will no longer be eligible for city-subsidized health insurance once they retire and reach age 65. The contract eliminates city-provided retiree insurance for new hires.
Pension contributions for current employees will rise 2.5 percent during the term of the agreement, and the health plan will shift from a preferred provider plan to a high-deductible one with a health savings account.
Liz Kavanah, the union’s president, said the deal was “fair” given Hartford’s financial challenges.
The city recently contemplated bankruptcy, and faces a $65 million deficit this fiscal year. In order to receive additional state aid, Hartford will soon be monitored by an oversight board, which has the ability to reject new labor contracts.
Kavanah said her members had considered that while weighing the agreement.
“We’ve always stepped up to the plate,” she said. “We want to see the city continue. We want to see the city grow stronger.”
The deal was approved by a “close” vote late last week, she added, but declined to reveal the totals. CHPEA employees work in a variety of positions, including accountants, crime analysts and food inspectors.
Mayor Luke Bronin said the contract helps put Hartford “on the path to fiscal health.”
“CHPEA is one of our smallest unions, but this agreement will save the city approximately $630,000 dollars over the course of the contract, and makes significant long-term structural changes in pension and retiree health insurance contributions,” he said. “These were long, tough negotiations, and I want to thank our team as well as all of the CHPEA members for their hard work and dedication.”
The city council must still sign off the agreement.
Hartford’s police union is expected to vote Friday on a new contract with the city. The tentative deal calls for changes in pension contributions and health insurance, and officers would receive raises only in the last two years of the six-year contract.
The city’s fire union approved a new agreement last year that featured pay freezes, a cap on pensions for new hires and changes to the health care plan.
Bronin built $8 million in employee concessions into his budget for the current fiscal year. About half of that was secured from the deal with the firefighters’ union.
The city is still negotiating with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Council 4, Local 1716, one of its largest unions, and with the Hartford Municipal Employees Association.