CAAS staff to vote on new contract that improves wages, maintains strong benefits and gives staff a voice in service quality and programs

Somerville – After several months of collective bargaining, Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) management and agency staff reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract. The proposed agreement maintains a comprehensive health insurance plan at a low cost to employees while also improving wages.

About 45 of CAAS’s staff are united in SEIU Local 888. The agency provides Head Start education, housing advocacy and other services to help low income residents in Cambridge and Somerville.

Anticipating increased health insurance costs, management and staff worked together find ways to keep health insurance affordable for agency staff. Union members are covered by a union administered plan where employees only contribute 11 percent of the cost of insurance premiums.

To balance a tight agency budget, management initially believed it would be necessary to increase employees’ contributions. Instead, the union found a new insurance provider willing to only raise premiums for the SEIU Local 888 plan by 4 percent.

Under the proposed contract, CAAS staff will continue to pay only 11 percent toward their health insurance with the agency covering the remaining 89 percent. Members will receive a 1.7 percent cost of living increase in the first year, with a scheduled “wage re-opener” to consider increases in future years.

The contract gives members a grievance procedure and provides for periodic labor-management meetings where staff can work with management to resolve on-the-job problems or work issues.

Union members will vote on the tentative agreement from 12:30 to 2:30 PM on Jan. 23 at the Jack Hamilton Head Start Center, 29 Allen Street in Somerville. Votes will be counted at 2:30 PM with results announced immediately afterwards.

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