The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300 and Central Vermont Public Service have agreed to a new five-year contract, the longest in company history, following interest-based negotiations.The new contract, affecting 216 unionized employees, was approved this morning and takes effect at midnight tonight, when the existing contract expires. The signing of a five-year agreement between the union and the company secures further benefits on both sides to expand upon, while strengthening the working relationship that presently exists, Local 300 Business Manager Jeff Wimette said. The union and the company have varied interests, of course, but we struck an agreement that is good for both sides, as well as our mutual customers.CVPS President Bob Young praised negotiators on both sides, as well as employee Ross Schifo, who served as a neutral facilitator in the negotiations. Schifo, who has an extensive background in facilitation, mediation and organizational development, served as an independent party in the interest-based talks, designed to elicit workable solutions rather than divisiveness. Over the past several contracts, the union and the company have been able to move beyond our self interests and really look at things from each other s side, Young said. That has allowed us to focus on customer needs together and ensure competitive benefits, working conditions and pay.The five-year contract is the longest in company history, the fourth reached through interest-based negotiating, and the fourth straight contract approved on the first vote of the union. In order to approximate the market, some specific jobs will receive base salary adjustments of 10 to 60 cents per hour, and all union job classification wage rates will increase by 3.35 percent in the first year of contract. In the second, third and fourth years, the increase will be 3.3 percent, and 3.25 percent in the fifth year. To help control long-term costs and volatility, the parties agreed to end CVPS s traditional pension for new hires, and to replace it with an enhanced 401k program, pending approval of the CVPS board of directors. The pension will remain in place for existing employees. The parties agreed to maintain employee contributions for health care at about 20 percent of company costs. We are proud of the work CVPS s employees do every day, and pleased to reach an agreement that serves their needs, and our customers, Young and Wimette said in a joint statement. As we demonstrated yet again in the recent ice storm, we are all committed to providing top-notch service, and a five-year contract will allow us to continue to focus on that together.