Council OKs contract agreement with Local Union 1491

Johnston Sun Rise ·

An agreement between the town and workers represented by the Rhode Island Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO Local Union 1491 was approved by the Johnston Town Council at its Oct. 11 meeting, subject to confirmation by a union vote.

“I think it’s a great deal for the taxpayers and I think it’s a good deal for the employees, and I strongly urge the council to pass it,” Mayor Joseph Polisena said during the meeting.

The union represents 70 employees across multiple town departments. According to the mayor’s office, the union’s membership was scheduled to vote on the deal Oct. 20.

Touting the arrangement as one of the first of its kind, the mayor outlined the intended benefits of the three-year proposal.

“As you know, many communities have health care after retirement, Well this eliminates healthcare after retirement for any new employee, which will significantly reduce our other post-employee benefits [OPEB],” Polisena said. “We’re looking at anywhere from six to 10 people retiring in the next year alone, so this is going to bring our OPEB down substantially, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the bond rating agencies say about this.”

The mayor also said the contract reduces longevity – a payment above the base rate of pay, based on years of service –for those hired after July 1, 2016, reducing the total cost to the town, including benefits.

The agreement additionally stipulates that the foreman mechanic in charge of the repair division will retire next year, and the $84,000 per year position will be eliminated.

“There are several positions in the contract that we’ve never filled, and we’re going to eliminate those positions as well. The contract from July 1, 2016 until June 30, 2017, there’s no wage increase,” Polisena said. “From July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, there’s a 2-percent wage increase at an estimated annual cost of $49,000. In the third year … there is a 2-percent wage increase at an estimated annual cost of $50,000.”

All council members voted in favor of the resolution with the exception of District 2 Councilman Anthony Verardo, who “out of an abundance of caution” recused himself.

“I would just like to commend the mayor, administration, and Labor for an agreement that’s good for both the taxpayers and Labor,” Councilman Richard DelFino III said. “I’d also like to wish Louis Prata, who’s the president that’s retiring, I’d like to wish him well and thank him for his service to the town.

Added Council President Robert Russo: “Since I’ve been on the council, Louis has been involved with the union, and they’ve always been a very fair union and they’ve always treated the taxpayers of Johnston very well. They’ve always come to the table to help us out when we had some tough financial times. Even though we’re now doing well, they’re still being very fair, so I applaud the union.”