Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Franklin Annual Report - 2020: Human Resources

Fiscal year 2020 was a busy and challenging year, which included contract negotiations, reorganizations, hiring, benefits administration and of course, dealing with a pandemic!

I worked closely with the Town Administrator and our department heads and managers to wrap up collective bargaining agreements for seven (7) different groups. We started meeting with union leadership back in March of 2019 and were able to reach agreements with all unions by the end of June 2020. It was a long year of countless meetings and conversations, but I believe we came to fair agreements for both sides for all our groups. Once the agreements were signed and both sides moved forward, the Human Resources and Payroll Departments worked tirelessly to make sure that all the data was updated in the payroll system correctly and appropriate changes were made.

This year, we helped recruit, interview and onboard 4 new members of the Fire Department, including Chief McLaughlin. It’s hard to believe that the Chief just joined us at the start of the fiscal year in July 2019! He had some pretty unbelievable accomplishments in one year. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read the Fire Department report for more information. Fiscal Year 2020 was a year of planning and change as the Department left the Civil Service system and prepared for a major reorganization, which officially took place in July 2020, or the start of fiscal year 2021.

In what could be deemed as a “slow” year, the Human Resources Department was involved in hiring 22 new full-time employees as well as a number of part-time employees and seasonal staff members. The new hires beyond the Fire Department included Public Health Director Cathy Liberty, who was just getting used to her new job when the pandemic hit, and Marketing and Communications Specialist Anne Marie Tracey, who helped communicate the every changing state of the Town and Schools in times of COVID! We also hired new staff for the Senior Center (1), Assessors Office (1), Department of Public Works (7), Building/Health/Planning Suite (2), Police Patrol Officers (3), and Custodians (2). We got used to a new way of interviewing this year, which included interview panels spread out across a full conference room with masks on. HR Administrator Sandy Golebiewski was a regular at the picnic tables outside of the Municipal Building as she met employees outside to walk them through their new hire packets and paperwork!

We also managed to work closely with the Insurance Advisory Committee to negotiate additional changes to our health insurance in the midst of the stay at home orders in March and April. The IAC met virtually to discuss the ever-changing landscape of health insurance. When we started talking to Harvard Pilgrim back in February 2020, we were facing an almost 20% increase in
Health Insurance, which would have had a crippling effect on the Town’s budget. We were able to make some small design changes, including increasing the deductible to bring this increase down to just about 9%. Of course, we wish that this increase did not have to happen, but it seems as if an increase of 5-10% each plan year is almost inevitable at this point. We were able to work together to ensure that the increase was somewhat manageable for both the Town and our employees.

Our Department worked very closely with the Town Administrator, Public Health Director, and the Emergency Management team to help ensure that our employees and residents stayed safe through COVID. This included tracking all COVID related absences and coaching employees through the relevant quarantine guidelines to ensure that they did not come to work and potentially infect other employees. Fortunately, for the period of March to July, we had very few employees test positive for COVID. The positive cases were not transmitted through work and could be traced to employees’ private lives.

In spite of working from home for a good portion of the year, I had some great opportunities to meet and get to know more employees. It was great to sit with so many of you through contract negotiations, on hiring committees/interview teams, and even have an opportunity to chat to some of you on the phone more as we worked out COVID exposure issues and quarantine timelines! It was a challenging year, but I continue to love my job and this Town and continue to learn something new every day. I look forward to another year, hopefully one where COVID becomes a distant memory!

Respectfully submitted, 

Karen M. Bratt
Human Resources Director 

For more about the Human Resources Dept, visit them at the ToF page

The full Annual Report for 2020 can be found online

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