By JACQUELINE DURETT
EDISON — Contracts between the township and two labor groups were finally settled, but not without some concerns expressed by two council members.
The Township Council approved resolutions Dec. 9 on the contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3269 and United Auto Workers Local 2326 AFL-CIO, which are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2011, respectively. Both contracts extend through 2017.
However, those contracts fell short in a few areas, according to Council Vice President Sapana Shah, prompting her to vote against the resolutions.
Shah said she took issue with the health insurance benefits provided, calling them more generous than what many others have.
“There’s many individuals even up on this stage that pay $1,000 for health insurance every month,” she said. “I understand that people need health insurance, but it’s very difficult to keep raising the taxes and paying the health insurance when a lot of us don’t even have the care that … town employees have.”
Shah also said she wanted the contracts to contain language about requiring cultural sensitivity training and having accountability for issues related to ethnicity and religion.
“I can’t tell you how important it is when people who work for the township do respect individuals that live in this town,” she said.
Councilman Robert Karabinchak agreed with Shah on that concern.
“I said during the beginning of the year that I wanted to see some information in every contract that deals with any kind of racist remarks that’s handled or that’s being done by any township employee,” he said. “And I wanted that to be cause for termination, immediate termination.”
He said, however, that Business Administrator Maureen Ruane has assured him that stronger language about the township’s position on that type of behavior will be in the next employee handbook. According to township officials, that handbook is in progress, but does not have an official release date yet.
Councilman Alvaro Gomez thanked everyone involved with negotiating the contracts.
“As you know, this has been going on for years,” he said. “I’m glad to see that we finally got to a point where we can amicably come to the table and agree on something that is a benefit to the town, puts us in a stronger position and it puts our employees in a position to be able to help us move forward.”
A spokesman for the township said specific terms of the contracts would not be released until all municipal pacts are finalized.