NORTH SMITHFIELD – The School Committee approved a three year contract for support staff this week that would see pay rate increases for the employees totaling an average of around $30,000 per year, but would include concessions in areas such as health benefits.
The contract with the North Smithfield Association of Support Staff Personnel, approved unanimously by the school board on Monday Sept. 30, must still be ratified by the Town Council. The union represents roughly 50 district employees, including teacher assistants, custodians, clerks, and school secretaries.
School Committee Chairman James Lombardi told board members that the district would see a net impact of $67,419 in the first year of the contract, $48,780 in the second, and $52,393 in the third.
The impact is primarily the result of salary increases, which total 2 percent each year.
Lombardi said that the deal was hard-won in achieving what the negotiating board hoped to accomplish. The union’s previous three-year contract expired in June.
“This was not an easy negotiation,” he said. “We were trying to lock in some loopholes that people were getting away with, and I think we achieved it.”
Concessions made by the union include a change to how the district handles worker’s compensation, with a decrease to the amount an employee will receive after leave exceeds 30 days. Currently, school staff out on leave receives 100 percent of their salary indefinitely.
“We saw this as helpful in trying to get people back to work,” Lombardi said.
Employee co-shares on healthcare, meanwhile, will increase by one percent this year to a total of 11 percent.
The contract also changes when reimbursements for health care kick in.
“Now you have to pay the entire family deductible before you get any reimbursements,” explained Business Manager Lisa Marcotte.
A good attendance incentive – a small bonus for employees who use a low amount of sick time – was also added to the agreement.
“We think that we achieved good things in this contract,” said Lombardi.
The chairman noted that for the vast majority of employees, the concessions will not be effective.
“They would be though, if there were people that were… I don’t want to say taking advantage of the system,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi said that despite some initial disputes between the two teams, negotiations went well.
“They thanked us many times. Even if we disagreed, they said many times that this was the most respectful negotiation they’ve had,” he said.
“I’d like to thank the support staff for our buildings looking so good, office work getting done and our students achieving better grades,” said Lombardi. “We obviously think it’s a very fair contract.”