WINCHESTER - Sometimes the Personnel Board article at Town Meeting receives lots of discussion and debate as their article tends to deal with union and non-union contracts the town must approve (along with the method to fund each contract). This year, outside of one motion concerning a stipend and pay increase for SEIU Local 888 clerical workers, Town Meeting approved Article 29 rather quickly.

Peter Cheimets, Chair of the Personnel Board, brought 11 motions forward. The one that received the most attention, motion 7, involved a three-year contract for the clerical workers SEIU Local 888 which covers FY20-FY22 and ends on June 30, 2022. This contract lifts the base pay over three years for a cost-of-living increase of two percent in FY20 (retroactive) and FY21 (partially retroactive) and 2.5 percent in FY22.

This motion also gives the clerical workers a technology stipend increase from one percent to two percent, which goes into effect on July 1, 2020. There’s also a longevity clause that gives workers an extra $100 after the first five years, $150 after 10 years, $200 after 15 years, $400 after 20 years, and $400 after 25 years.

Workers who fill in for someone for an extended period of time will also see a boost in pay of $1.50 per hour if the person for whom they’re filling in is one grade above them, $2.50 per hour if that person is two grades above them and $3.50 an hour if that person is three grades above them.

The financial impact for this motion, according to the Personnel Board, is salary increases of $22,774 in FY20, $70,864 for FY21 and $70,314 for FY22.

When it came time for recommendations, the Select Board voted unanimously to recommend all motions while the Finance Committee voted 4-7-1 against motion 7. The Finance Committee chair said his committee had issues with the wage increases and the technology stipend. He said there wasn’t any technology stipend in any other union contract or in other clerical workers’ contracts in other towns.

The chair outlined the impact of the increases. He said a clerical worker on level 8, making $57,066 a year, would see a salary increase of seven percent (including a step increase to level 9) in one year and an 18.7 percent increase over the three year contract. He reminded Town Meeting how the town’s budget only increases, on average, three percent per year.

Although the Finance Committee voted against motion 7, they voted in favor of motions 8 and 9 which fund motion 7. Town Meeting member Ann Sera questioned why they did that. The chair noted that if motion 7 passes, the town needs to fund it through motions 8 and 9.

After a vote, motion 7 passed by one vote (and because of the virtual Town Meeting and electronic voting, the Town Moderator avoided having everyone stand up and count each vote individually). Once complete, Town Meeting member Tony Conte moved for a reconsideration of motion 7.

After his motion received a second, Town Moderator Peter Haley informed Town Meeting it could take up reconsideration after finishing the remaining motions under Article 29.

Conte, when deliberation began on reconsideration, suggested the Finance Committee made a compelling argument against motion 7. He called the policy change for the technology stipend unprecedented.

“Town Meeting should think carefully,” he advised about the vote to reconsider motion 7.

Cheimets, defending the contract negotiations, called it a “mischaracterization” to say the stipend change is uncommon. He mentioned other stipends received by town employees such as maintaining a drivers license to drive trucks, especially for those who work in the water & sewer department.

Still, others backed Conte’s motion, including former Finance Committee Chair Samantha Allison who mentioned the override the town passed at a recent Town Meeting, suggesting it would only last a couple of years.

“That’s an awful big increase in a short period of time,” she said about the potential 18 percent increase the Finance Committee announced would happen if motion 7 passed.

Another Town Meeting member, Janice Jens, called technology part of the job and reminded Town Meeting the town continues to suffer from the coronavirus and its economic repercussions.

Jeffrey Dean, a Town Meeting member, pointed out how the town already spent a lot of money and acknowledged the slim chances of another override passing.

“Be thoughtful with our current funds,” he asked.

When Town Meeting member Prassede Calabi asked what work is covered and if this motion simply brings the clerical workers’ salary in line with what other towns pay their clerical workers, Town Manager Lisa Wong said they did perform a comparison study with other communities and found their cost-of-living adjustment was similar to other unions. She added how clerical workers haven’t received a change in their step schedule since the 1980s.

Plus, she noted how a previous Town Meeting already adopted the technology stipend. Wong said this increase is a simple acknowledgment of new technology over the decades.

The Town Moderator then jumped in to remind Town Meeting that it’s a appropriating authority and not a negotiating one.

When Town Meeting voted to reconsider motion 7, it failed by a handful of votes.

Other motions

Motion 1 creates two positions and reclassifies two others. This goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

This motion deletes the position of executive coordinator and creates the position of community engagement coordinator (both within the Town Manager’s Office). It deletes the position of Public Health Nurse and creates the position of Nurse Manager. It also creates a Deputy Fire Chief position and a Field Marshal.

Motion 2 allocates $6,511 from the Unallocated Wage Account to fund these positions.

Motion 3 institutes a cost-of-living adjustment increase of one percent effective this January (in addition to a 1.5 percent increase Town Meeting approved last spring).

Motion 4 funds that increase using $33,889 from the Unallocated Wage Account, $451 from Water & Sewer Retained Earnings and $2,155 from Recreation Retained Earnings.

Motion 5 adds a step 11 for CS-Clerical and a 3.5 percent increase, a step 11 for Professional technical and a 3.5 percent increase and a step 16 for Management and a 2.5 percent increase.

Motion 6 funds this using $31,013 from the Unallocated Wage Account, $762 from Water & Sewer Retained Earnings and $2,535 from Recreation Retained Earnings.

Motions 8 and 9 fund motion 7 using $22,640 from Free Cash, $1,872 from Water & Sewer Retained Earnings and $2,765 from Recreation Retained Earnings (all under motion 8) and $79,288 from the Unallocated Wage Account, $9,987 from Water & Sewer Retained Earnings and $8,964 from Recreation Retained Earnings (all under motion 9).

Motion 10 makes changes to the Personnel Policy Guide such as night differentials for dispatchers in the amount of a 3.5 percent increase starting Jan. 1 and a six percent increase starting July 1. It also offers a longevity clause that gives $100 after five years, $125 after 10 years, $150 after 15 years, $200 after 20 years and $300 after 25 years.

This motion also offers sick-leave buy back rates at retirement for CS-Clerical, Professional/technical and Management supervisory starting at $50 per day over 105 days on Jan. 1, 2021 and $75 per day on Jan. 1, 2022.

Motion 11 funds these increases using $4,876 from the Unallocated Wage Account, $7,265 from current funds, $750 from Water & Sewer Retained Earnings, and $400 from Recreation Retained Earnings.

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