Teamsters sign on for three more years

Town Council members unanimously approved ratification of a three-year contract Monday with 45 New Milford town employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 677.

The union members -- 40 work in the town's Public Works Department and five work at Parks & Recreation -- gave up a pay raise for the coming year and agreed to a 2.8 percent pay raise and 2.9 percent pay raise in the second and third years of the contract, respectively.

The contract increase is a total of $275,000 over the three years, including health care, pension and pay increases.

"We know our members can afford to retire and that they've gotten a good deal on health insurance through the contract. That's why we agreed to a zero percent increase for the first year," said Teamsters Local 677 vice president John Capobianco.

"Our guys put their lives on the line, not just in winter, when they're out in storms but in the summer, too, when they're out on the roadside doing roadwork," Mr. Capobianco said. "They keep the roads safe. These are great guys."

The Town Council had initially voted July 13 against ratification of the contract in a 5 to3 vote. At Monday's council meeting, councilman Ray O'Brien said he was "embarrassed and humbled" by having voted 'no' at the first meeting.

"I was looking at health-care costs, which seemed to be substantial in increase," Mr. O'Brien said. "But the obligation we have to pay these dollar amounts is the same obligation we have in any contract that is in place" with town employees.

"The teamsters are doing something right in health care," he concluded. "Their rate increases are less than we're typically seeing throughout the health care industry."