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TMCNet:  Red Bank, public utility workers sign new contract

[February 15, 2013]

Red Bank, public utility workers sign new contract

RED BANK, Feb 15, 2013 (Asbury Park Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A new two-year contract has been approved with the union that represents the borough's Department of Public Utility workers.

But the two sides can't walk away from the negotiating table just yet. The newly signed pact is retroactive to 2011, when the last contract expired and both sides will be back at the table when this one expires at the end of the year.

Borough officials also have a new contract to negotiate with the police union because the current contract also expires this year, said borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

The Borough Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the two-year deal, which members of Communications Workers of America Local 1038 ratified on Monday. The new pact provides for a 2 percent salary increase in 2012 and a 1.75 percent raise for 2013, Sickels said.

The agreement also allows movement in "step" in the salary guide for experienced utility veterans, which had been frozen in the last contract, Sickels said. The step provides an increase "a little higher" than 2 percent for veteran workers, he said.

The new contract, which covers 65 employees, also changes some work rules, including when overtime pay starts, which is at the 10th hour worked after a regular shift. The agreement also allows the borough to hire new employees at a higher rate than the base pay if they have specialized skills or experience.

"If we're looking for a heavy equipment operator and a guy has that experience in another town, we don't have to hire them at the entry level," Sickels said. "We can give him credit for experience." The new pact also conforms with state mandates about employee contribution to health insurance, sick leave and accumulation of unused sick time, he said.

After the vote, council members recognized that the workers covered by this contract are among the lowest paid in the borough and were asked to make a sacrifice in the prior pact of a salary increase less than police received, when the borough faced fiscal issues.

"This rectifies some of the imbalances," said Mayor Pasquale "Pat" Menna, adding that many of the workers have been around 30 to 40 years. All the workers are blue-collar employees, he said.

"We worked out a fair agreement within the means of the borough," said Councilman Michael R. DuPont. "They have been at the lower end of the pay scale in the borough." ___ (c)2013 Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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