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Massena highway employees receive new four-year deal

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MASSENA — Employees of the town’s Highway Department received a new four-year deal Wednesday, after the Town Council voted unanimously to adopt a tentative agreement that will save the town money on health insurance costs, while also awarding raises to the department’s employees for the next four years.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the new contract will give employees a raise of 55 cents per hour in year one, to be followed by raises of 50 cents per hour in years two, three and four. The current base rate for machine equipment operators is $22.19 per hour.

The department, which has eight employees, had accepted a two-year wage freeze as part of its last contract.

Mr. Gray said the cost of the raises will be offset by insurance changes that will give the town “significant savings.”

He said that by switching to a high-deductible account with health reimbursement accounts, the town would save $2,500 a year per employee. Given that the department has eight employees, it is looking at savings of $20,000 per year.

“We believe, and I think they (highway employees) agree, it’s actually a better plan,” Mr. Gray said, adding that the town was required to provide the employees with a plan that was equal to or better than their current plan.

“For the employee, co-pays and deductibles go away,” he said. “They still exist, but they don’t pay for it.”

Town Councilman John F. Macaulay said each employee is given an account with his name on it that contains money that must be used for medical expenses.

At the end of the year, money remaining in the account rolls over and will continue doing so until the employee turns 65.

Other changes to the contract include lower wages for new hires.

Under the present contract, new hires are paid $2.10 per hour less than the current base rate and must work for three years before reaching that base rate. The new contract calls for them to be paid $3 less per hour and work for four years before earning the base rate.

“There are some other minor adjustments,” Mr. Gray said, noting the premium paid for shift work during the winter will be an additional $1 per hour on top of the hourly rate. The current contract paid workers 65 cents more per hour.

Employees working as mechanics will receive an additional 75 cents per hour for any time spent making repairs to vehicles or equipment.

Employees who are designated as foremen will receive an additional $2 per hour, with seasonal foremen receiving an additional $2 per hour.

Seasonal foremen now receive an increase of only $1 per hour.

Mr. Gray said employees also will receive an increase in their boot allowance of $5 in year one, $5 in year two and $3 in years three and four.

They now receive $180 per year to purchase work boots, he said.

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