NHPS, School Custodians End Long Labor Dispute

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Christopher Hoffman
203-497-7015 (office)
203-721-3184 (cell)
Award Reduces Labor and Health Costs in Time of Flat Budgets, Restructures Pensions, Provides More Funds for Students, Building Maintenance
The New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) and the school custodians in AFSCME Council 4 Local 287 have ended their longstanding labor dispute with an arbitration award that reduces labor and healthcare costs and restructures pensions, while providing the district with greater flexibility and funds to educate students and maintain the city’s rebuilt schools.
Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. said, “Under this award, custodians join teachers and administrators in new thinking and approaches that will safeguard the city’s fiscal future. This award gives custodians fair wages and benefits and the Board of Education the flexibility and savings it needs to properly maintain schools and educate students in a time of flat budgets. School districts must treat employees fairly while making students and education their first priority.
“I look forward to working together with the city’s unions to find solutions to the city’s fiscal challenges. I am hopeful that this award signals a new day for the city and its unions.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo said, “I’m pleased with the award. It provides the district with the flexibility, efficiency and cost savings needed to maintain our buildings and educate kids. Thanks to this award, we will be able to commit a greater share of our budget to classroom instruction.”
Under the award, custodians will be offered buyouts and early retirements between December 1 and 31. The award will reduce the number of custodians from 154 to 130 by December 31. Another 30 positions will be eliminated, hopefully through attrition and retirements, by July 1. The award permits the district to hire contractors to perform all supplemental work. The district will be allowed to hire outside contractors for services such as snowplowing, audio visual work, and mechanics.
The award increases productivity by reducing the number of job classifications from 24 to four. Custodians will now hold one of four positions: building manager, assistant building manager, floater or driver. Each building will have a manager and an assistant manager. The award changes work rules that impede efficiency and increase overtime costs, such as quarterly bidding for positions and vacation eligibility.
Mayor DeStefano called the award a model, noting that it includes key pension and health insurance reforms he has advocated for other bargaining units.
The award introduces a new health savings account base plan, also included in the latest School Administrators Association contract. Employees may choose to buy up to the BC-2 plan with a 13 percent cost sharing arrangement, an increase of 3 percent over current cost shares.
Pension changes in the award include basing pension payments on budgeted salary, not overtime, capping cost-of-living increases, and increasing employee pension contributions. Retiree health care for new employees is eliminated, and retiree health care for employees with less than ten years of service is limited to employees only and not their dependents.
Mayor DeStefano said, “This award provides a template for pension and healthcare reforms vital to the city’s fiscal health. I am pleased to see these reforms become reality. Taxpayers are hurting during these tough times, and we owe it to them to keep costs under control.”
The award is retroactive to 2009-10. It has no raises in the first two years and 2 percent raises in each of the last two years. It is a 6 year agreement with wage and health care re-openers for years 5 and 6.
The award will save the district about $4 million a year.