Herbst: Arbitration does not serve TEA's best interests

First Selectman Tim Herbst says that the projected increases in the state plan are more stable than the current plan.
First Selectman Tim Herbst says that the projected increases in the state plan are more stable than the current plan.

With the Board of Finance's final budget vote looming Monday, First Selectman Tim Herbst issued a statement concerning negotiations with town employee unions and the Trumbull Board of Education over the town’s proposed conversion to the state partnership plan

"This afternoon, the executive board of Trumbull’s largest union, the Trumbull Education Association (TEA), will meet and decide whether to negotiate with the Board of Education over the proposed changes or proceed directly to arbitration," Herbst said. "It is my strong preference that the union executive board proceed in good faith with negotiations.

"Arbitration does not serve their best interests," he added. "Under the proposed state plan, BOE employees will realize lower medical co-pays and a medical provider match of 97%."

According to Herbst's statement, the projected increases in the state plan are more stable than the TEA's current plan.

"Before even entering the state plan, currently under our existing provider, there is a $1.4 million gap that must be filled in the existing medical account, as a result of high claim experience and an anticipated 14% increase in Anthem rates," he explained.

"A current family plan for TEA members represents an annual cost of $29,025," the first selectman added. "Under the State Partnership Plan, that family plan will cost $24,898.

"Even if there are upward adjustments for dental and retiree benefits, these savings are still very significant and the overall plan design will be less than what we pay now," Herbst said. "This plan conversion by the Town and the BOE will represent $3 million in savings to the taxpayers of the Town of Trumbull."

Acknowledging that there are significant savings to the taxpayers under the switch, Herbst said that there are also improved benefits to the members of our collective bargaining units.

"The partnership plan is far richer than most plan designs offered.  Members will go from a $30 office visit co-pay to $0, a $150 outpatient co-pay to $0, a $250 hospital co-pay to $0 and visitation limits for short term rehabilitation to no limits," he continued. "The schedule of benefits, in terms of coverage and member co-payments, exceeds the current Trumbull PTO plan design. Design aspects such as co-payments and limitations of certain therapy visits are more generous under the partnership plan.

"This is an absolute no brainer for the taxpayers and our collective bargaining units," Herbst said.

He cited the Fairfield Education Association (FEA) as an example of a union that worked with it Superintendent, David Title, to approve the conversion to the state partnership plan.

"I am hopeful that Trumbull’s teachers will proceed to the bargaining table like their Fairfield counterparts and work with Dr. Cialfi and the Trumbull Board of Education in completing this process," Herbst said. "Arbitration does not serve their rank and file well.

"Also, as the TEA enters contract negotiations, they must consider whether they prefer this plan or the potential for a high end deductible plan, which has been successfully implemented by other school districts in Connecticut," the first selectman concluded. "I believe many members of the TEA Executive Board have the best interests of their members at heart and want to work collaboratively towards a resolution.

"I am hopeful that a select few seeking to sabotage this conversion do not overpower and overrule a silent majority that wish to work with the Town and the Board of Education in a collaborative manner."