LEWISTON — After 18 months without contracts, city officials are still working to settle union deals with four employee unions.

“It’s fair to say that both sides want to get a contract done,” Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said. “We all have our opinions about where we are in the talks right now.”

Nadeau is the city’s chief negotiator.

“Everybody works at their own pace,” he said. “There are things that are important to each side, and we are going to find a way to settle this and get it done without it becoming too long and drawn-out a process.”

Lewiston’s employees belong to six unions: International Association of Fire Fighters; Maine Association of Police; Lewiston Police Supervisory Command Unit; Maine State Employees Association; and two divisions of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. One division represents the city’s Public Works employees and the other represents technical staff.

The city has nonunion contracts with department supervisors.

All six union contracts expired in June 2014.

Nadeau said the city signed deals with the Maine State Employees Association and the Public Works division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees last fall.

“No one contract is a mirror reflection of the other,” Nadeau said. “They really can’t be. They are all doing very different jobs. Some work a 40-hour week, some a 37.5-hour week and some people work 24-hour shifts, such as the Fire Department. Every unit is different, so different features are part of those contracts to reflect those differences.”

But Nadeau said new health insurance rules were a part of both settled contracts. They require employees to pay higher deductibles and increase premiums for employees who started working with the city before 2007. Those employees paid 10 percent of the premium in the old contract, but pay 15 percent in the new contract. Employees who started working for the city after September 2007 pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

As an offset to those higher insurance costs, the contract created a Health Reimbursement Agreement that lets employees set aside part of each paycheck to cover health care costs.

“Because of the rising costs of health insurance, we are doing what we can to control the costs and negotiate something all the unions will see as reasonable,” Nadeau said. “We’ve managed to do that with two unions.”

Nadeau said those changes are part of the ongoing contract negotiations with the four remaining unions.

“There are elements of each that are similar, and some that are identical,” Nadeau said. “But the contracts just cannot be the same. They never can be, because the jobs are so different.

Attorney Dan Felkel, the lawyer representing the two police unions, confirmed that negotiations with the city were ongoing and said he planned to meet with the city in February to continue negotiations.

Representatives for the technical staff union and the Fire Department could not be reached for comment.

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