Friday May 24, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The town is nearing agreement on a new labor contract with public works employees and police, according to Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd.

Employees are currently working under a one-year labor agreement reached last April that expires on June 30. A five-year deal preceded it. Hurd said he hopes to finalize a new, two-year agreement soon.

"I'd like to think we're real close, but one never knows," Hurd said. "I'd like to believe sooner rather than later."

Under the current, one-year agreement, employees received a 3 percent pay increase. They also agreed to pay an additional $100 of their heath care plan deductible. That made employees responsible for covering $500 of the plan's $5,000 deductible.

The two sides are seeking no more than a two-year deal because of uncertainty in the implementation of the federal health care reform law, Hurd said.

The town decided during the last negotiation to separate contracted pay raises from the consumer price index. The CPI remained stagnant, and even declined, during the recent economic downturn.

About 60 town employees are covered under the labor agreement.

Contact Neal Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @nealgoswami