West Haven BOE unanimously approves ‘wage opener’ with 1 percent increase for nurses

West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro

West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro

The Board of Education has unanimously approved a “wage opener” settlement agreement with the union that represents 16 school nurses that will give nurses a 1 percent salary increase in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The West Haven Federation of Nurses agreement applies only to wages in the the final two years of what originally was a four-year contract.

It does not affect any other aspect of the contract, Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro said Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The deal is essentially the same as a deal previously reached with the much larger West Haven Federation of Teachers, which has about 550 members, Cavallaro told the board Monday night.

According to the settlement agreement, the nurses, like the teachers, will take a “hard-freeze,” with no salary increase or step movement for the 2019-20fiscal year, then will get the 1 percent wage increase with no step advancement for fiscal 2020-2021.

The teachers’ agreement was approved in succession by the school board, the City Council and the state Municipal Accountability Review Board that’s working with the city to improve its finances.

It cleared even the MARB with little discussion.

The nurses’ agreement does not require council approval and will go to the MARB “for advice and consent,” but doesn’t require formal MARB approval, Cavallaro said Wednesday.

The initial annual cost of the 1 percent increase will be $8,840, Cavallaro said.

“This was only a wage reopener” and “it’s just like the teachers” deal, Cavallaro said. “The real benefit for us is moving them into the high-deductible plan — with the 20 percent co-pay.”

The one-page agreement is signed by Board of Education Chairwoman Rosemary Russo, Cavallaro and West Haven Federation of Nurses officers Saundra McCauley and Laurie Cassella.

It states that “all other terms and conditions of the (collective bargaining agreement) shall remain in effect and unchanged.”

The teachers and school nurses unions last year became the first unions representing West Haven municipal workers to accept money-saving changes in medical benefits, including implementation of high-deductible insurance plans — something the MARB cited in approving the teachers’ wage-reopener.

The new plans required deductibles of $2,000 for single employees and $4,000 for those with families, with the deductibles funded 50 percent by the Board of Education. The plans have out-of-pocket maximums of $4,000 for single employees and $6,850 for those with families.