BARRE — City councilors haven’t yet been briefed on the details, but they were told Tuesday night a tentative settlement has been reached with one of two municipal labor unions working under contracts that expired on June 30.

It isn’t a done deal yet, but City Manager Steve Mackenzie told councilors negotiations with unionized members of the city’s fire and ambulance department cleared a critical hurdle during last Friday when both sides agreed to the framework for a new contract.

Mackenzie said he will brief councilors on the terms of the tentative settlement during a closed-door session next week and could ask them to ratify the contract when they meet Dec. 10. The latter date is dependent on when the union schedules its own ratification vote.

The council has historically waited for union ratification before taking any formal action on a proposed contract that would necessitate the document’s public release.

Mackenzie said that won’t change and the details of the settlement will remain private until after it has been ratified.

While Mackenzie declined to discuss the substance of the proposed settlement, he did say negotiators for both sides were eager to reach an agreement during a bargaining session that spanned four hours on Friday afternoon.

“Neither side got what they wanted,” he said, describing the terms of the tentative deal as “fair.”

The proposed settlement is the product of a bargaining process that included a dozen closed-door sessions since the two sides traded proposals on June 5.

Heading into Friday’s session, two predictably thorny issues – compensation and health insurance benefits – remained unresolved.

Mackenzie said they aren’t any more and, barring some unexpected development, the latest round of negotiations with firefighters has ended. This time no outside assistance was required.

Assuming speedy ratification, which wasn’t the case the last time around, the new contract will pick up where the last one left off. That four-year contract wasn’t ratified until months after a tentative settlement was announced and was the product of a far more protracted and contentious process.

Mackenzie didn’t provide councilors with an update on ongoing negotiations with unionized clerical and custodial staff, who – like firefighters – are working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30. He did say negotiation with unionized members of the public works department recently got off to a smooth start and in two sessions those negotiations have progressed to a conversation of wages and benefits.

Public works employees are working under a contract that will expire Dec. 31.

The city’s other municipal labor union, which represents police officers and emergency dispatchers, are now in the final year of a two-year contract that will expire on June 30, 2020. That agreement was ratified in January, more than six months after the previous contract had lapsed.


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