By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Employees in the town’s Public Works Department have a new union contract.
The Town Council unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Teamsters Local No. 633, the union that includes Public Works Department staff working in Buildings and Grounds, Highway Department, the transfer station, vehicle maintenance, and water and wastewater divisions.
The union’s current contract was set to expire this month. The new agreement runs through June 2016 and includes more than 50 changes from the previous contract.
General wage increases between 1 and 1.5 percent over the next three years of the contract are included. The sick leave pool has been eliminated.
Workers will have to pay more for their contributions to health insurance costs.
The new contract increases employee contribution toward health premiums from the current 3.8 percent rate up to 10 percent in July 2013, 12 percent in July 2014 and 14 percent in July 2015.
Officials called the agreement “fair and reasonable.”
Human resources director Larry Budreau fielded questions from residents during a public hearing on the contract prior to the vote.
Resident and former town councilor Kevin Coyle questioned the pay raises and said the public works employees were paid enough already.
“Giving pay raises to people already making above the average in the state,” he said. “I don’t think Derry can afford that.”
Budreau agreed the town’s workers got a good wage.
“We do have a well-paid public works department,” he said. “I’m not an advocate for being the highest paid.”
Resident Mike Gill also expressed concern the does not drug test new employees. Many public works staff have commercial driving licenses that fall under Department of Transportation rules when it comes to drug and alcohol testing policies.
When asked whether the new agreement would save Derry any money, Budreau said the new contract is “dead even” when compared to costs in the recently approved fiscal year 2014 budget.
Residents had also called on councilors to include the public’s input prior to voting on the contract.
Initially, Town Councilor Neil Wetherbee said holding a public hearing on the contract was a good idea, but said next time, the public’s comments should come before contact negotiations begin.
“We give (Budreau) direction on what the contract should be, then we take public input,” he said. “I think the process is backward.”