The town administration is settling contracts with its labor unions, with an eye toward keeping health care costs to a minimum.
“We just completed police and Teamsters — park gardeners, highway crews, maintenance facility crews,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said. “We’re continuing to look for savings in health care. High-deductible plans have been a focus of those negotiations.”
The latest contract with police has been contentious.
Sgt. Brent Reeves, president of the Greenwich Silver Shield Association, the town’s police union, said the vote approving the latest contract was extremely close.
“As a result of significant shifts, over health care and operational issues, it was divisive. It passed by a slim margin. It was contentious,” he said.
The contract with police grants raises of 2.5 percent through 2016.
Tesei said, “What the strategy has been, given the increasing cost of health care, the town has moved employees into higher-deductible plans,” Along with other modifications to the town’s health care plan, he said. “They make you more vested in how you manage your medical care and your health.”
Overall, Tesei said, the public sector was coming to more closely resemble the private sector in its health care offerings.
“There has been a concerted efforts to change the compensation package, mirroring what is taking place in the private sector,” he said.
The cost of employee health care is not the only expense officials are trying to bring down. Like other communities across the country, Greenwich is struggling to lower employee retirement costs as well.
With the exception of police and fire employees, everyone else in the town workforce is being routed into a 401(k) program instead of pensions.
The contracts for firefighters will be next to be negotiated followed by mid-level managers. The process should be wrapped up by the end of 2015.
The first selectman said the town’s labor relations director, Al Cava, was achieving an even-handed approach to the labor issues.
“He’s had a very good track record. He’s listened to the concerns of the taxpayers, and is balancing that with the employee concerns,” he said.
Firefighter union spokesman Matt Brooks said the process had not yet started.
“It’s preliminary. We haven’t seen what they’re proposing yet,” he said.