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Bargaining to “Make Real Gains” for Members

Non-certified education personnel in Farmington Public Schools in mid January ratified their first successor agreement since the local’s membership affiliated with AFT Connecticut. The negotiating committee secured several key wins at the bargaining table, due in part to intentional persistence and expanded power demonstrated in mediated talks with the board of education (BOE).
 
“A larger union made the difference this time,” said Linda Yacone (left in photo, above), a special education paraprofessional at West Woods Upper Elementary School who served on the team. “Having AFT’s support meant greater knowledge, additional resources and even more members behind us. That helped us show the board we wouldn’t back down from a fight,” added Yacone, who is also vice president of our Farmington Public Schools Employees United (FPSEU).
 
Yacone’s comments refer to the June, 2018 vote by a majority of the union’s approximately 200 paraeducators, tutors, secretaries, clerks, custodians and maintenance professionals to join our state federation.
 
Click here for photos of Yacone and fellow members at last year’s affiliation vote.
 
“It was a positive change for us on so many levels,” added Yacone, who had also served on the committee during talks with the BOE for their previous contract.
 
Key benefits for members in the new agreement include general wage increases for each of the three years included. Medical insurance coverage was also maintained with employee premium co-share costs remaining well below the national average annual increase.
 
Among the most impactful of the “quality of worklife” proposals won in the contract promises to address school health and safety issues. The committee secured four slots for local union members to serve as representatives on the District Safety Council.
 
Click here for additional photos from the members’ contract ratification vote.
 
The contract, which was retroactive to July 1 of last year, was in late January approved unanimously by the BOE at their regular meeting.
 
After nearly nine months of negotiations, the bargaining team for our affiliate representing the registered nurses (RNs) at Manchester Memorial Hospital (MMH) in late January achieved a settlement on a successor contract. The new agreement was the first for the local union since the non-profit network that manages the acute care facility was acquired by Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc.
 
“We have seen so many changes around our hospital since the take-over,” said Anne-Marie Cerra, RN, who works in MMH’s emergency department. “Bargaining gave us the opportunity to question management on those changes. It was also a platform to share our members’ hopes and concerns — and make real gains,” added Cerra, who serves as president of our Manchester Federation of RNs union.
 
Cerra’s comments refer to numerous improvements in working conditions and substantial economic benefits won for the approximately 230 members of the local during contract negotiations. Among the most significant was the creation of a readjusted wage formula order to address historic wage disparities between RNs with similar experience and seniority. 
 
“The equalized wage table means that members who were underpaid for years will finally see real equity,” said Cerra. 
 
The agreement provides an overall average wage increase of 9.55% — an average of $3.31 per hour — over the three-year term. Members’ individual pay hikes vary, but those seeing the most substantial will receive a 23.61% boost — roughly $7.26 per hour. 
 
Additional economic gains won by bargaining team members in negotiations include increased educational assistance, boosted charge nurse premiums and new annual bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) bonuses. They also prevailed on many worklife quality proposals, such as a new humanitarian leave provision, mediation rights, improved vacation scheduling and stronger qualified staffing guidelines. 
 
Click here for photos of nurses casting their ballots on the agreement.
 
Members of the local union in early February ratified the new contract, which is retroactive to July 1 of last year.
 
Yacone, Cerra and the members of their respective unions have much to celebrate — and they are not alone. The contracts, agreements and awards finalized over the past three months will benefit a combined 2,750 PreK-12 teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, healthcare professionals and public employees. 
 
As this latest collective bargaining report is being finalized, two additional affiliated locals have successfully concluded contract negotiations and are proceeding with preparations for ratification votes. Results will be announced at AFT Connecticut Twitter feed, where members can amply the message that the “U and I in Union” is what powers our gains on the job.
 
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