Forty-five New Milford town employees are working without a contract.

The contract ran out June 30 for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 677 union and the town council Monday rejected ratifying a new three-year agreement.

"I think some of the council members were comparing apples to oranges," council vice chairman Roger Szendy said Tuesday. "I think the union members gave a good faith effort to do well by the town and I'm sorry we didn't reciprocate."

The Teamsters had offered to forego a pay raise for the coming year and agreed to a 2.8 and 2.9 percent pay raises for the second and third years of the contract, respectively, council members said.

The increase requested was $275,000 in total over the three years of the contract, including health care cost increases, pension increases and pay increases, according to Mr. Szendy.

Council member Ray O'Brien was outspoken Monday when he voted against ratifying the contract with the 40 Public Works and five Parks & Recreation employees in the union. He said the town budget could not support the increases the contract called for with so many residents facing tough economic times.

Yet Tuesday, Mr. O'Brien said he had been wrong in voting against the agreement.

"I called the mayor this morning and told her I would support the contract if she brought it back with one change," he said. "I was not totally opposed to it."

Mr. O'Brien is still asking for a change in the pension contribution but, after reviewing the contract more closely, believes the pay increases requested and medical insurance increase are reasonable.

"Foregoing a pay increase this year is a very positive step by the Teamsters," he said.

Mayor Pat Murphy said Tuesday she could not discuss the union contract as it is still in negotiations, given the rejection by town cuncil of its ratification.

The vote that negated ratification of the contract was three for --Mary Jane Lundgren, Roger Szendy and Robert Gundelsberger -- and five opposed -- Peter Mullen, Walter Bayer, Joe Failla, John Lillis and Ray O'Brien.

Calls to Teamsters Local 677 shop steward Bill Petruno were not returned.

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