Borough, Workers Reach 6-Year Contract Agreement
Fair Lawn's blue- and white-collar workers have reached a new 6-year contract agreement with the borough that will afford them a 6.5 percent raise over the contract's life.
After working for more than three years under an expired contract, Fair Lawn’s blue- and white-collar workers have reached a new employment agreement with the borough.
Blue and white employees, who hadn’t seen a raise since 2009 when their old contract expired, will receive a 6.5 percent pay increase over the six-year life of the new contract, which runs until the end of 2015, borough manager Tom Metzler said.
He said that in exchange for the pay bumps, blue and white workers — who comprise all employees who are not police officers, department heads and supervisors — made numerous concessions that should save the borough money in the long run.
“I think the contract represents reasonable increases and I believe the concessions are going to result in cost savings, “ said Metzler, who characterized negotiations as “very tough.” “I’m happy for the employees.”
As part of the deal, future blue and white hires will belong to a new employee tier with salary ranges that are 10 percent lower across the board. They’ll go from minimum to maximum salary over a period of five years, rather than seven, and will no longer receive longevity pay based on their years of service to the borough, Metzler said.
All blue and white workers, both present and future, will increase their health care co-pay from $10 to $20 starting Jan. 1, 2014.
“This is what the public that we all work for has been asking for – making government more efficient,” Metzler said. “And I think these are steps in the right direction.”
It may take years before some of the employee givebacks result in savings to the borough, but Metzler stressed that they’ll be continued savings when they do come.
“You can’t have quick fixes,” he said. “You have to come up with things that are going to be sustained.”
Flexible scheduling, which enables department heads and supervisors to assign their workers previously off-hour shifts without paying overtime, has also been formalized as part of the contract.
Department heads and supervisors will now be able to assign employees to work any day of the week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., as long as they provide 28 days advance notice, Metzler said.
He said the implementation of flex hours should save the borough considerably in divisions where overtime is accrued regularly.
In one case, sewer division employees were racking up regular overtime on the weekend responding to complaints about odors coming from the south siphon, Metzler said.
Upon investigation, he learned that if the grates at the south siphon weren’t cleaned out daily, they picked up solids that would aerate and create odors. As a result, residents would call police to complain about the foul odors on the weekend when workers weren’t there to clean the grates.
Police would confirm the odors and relay the complaints to the sewer department who would then end up coming in to clean the grates out at overtime rates.
With flexible hours in place, that overtime should no longer be an issue.
“If you know that you have to [clean the grates on the weekend], you can set up a schedule where people are working on Saturdays and Sundays doing that and other normal tasks that would be done during a workweek,” Metzler said. “It’s not costing you overtime and the public is still being serviced. That’s the intent of flexible hours.”
Flexible hours won’t, however, eliminate overtime completely. Employees who come in after 8 p.m. — say to fix a water main break in the middle of the night — will still receive overtime for their work.
Metzler, who now has negotiated the last two employee contracts, said he was proud of the accomplishment.
“I’m extremely pleased and happy that I can walk out the door and at least they’ll have a contract in place as they move forward,” he said.
Metzler has also worked out a handshake agreement on a new contract with borough department heads and said he hoped to have one in place with supervisors by the time he steps down on May 30.