Council Puts Firefighters’ Contract on Hold

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After years of negotiations, mediation and finally arbitration the Firefighters appeared to have a contract ready to be voted on by the Town Council, but the board instead decided to postpone the vote.

The arbitration agreement would have ended nearly six years the Firefighters Local 1347 have been without a contract, and would provide 2.5 percent increases in Fiscal 2012 and 2013, along with other other increases.

In total the town would have to pay $2.74 million in back pay and other incentives as a result of the arbitration. Town Manager Michael Driscoll proposed using $2 million from the Fiscal 2015 Town Council Reserve and the $739,759 from Fiscal 2015 Town Health Insurance Fund.

The biggest increases come from:

  • $992,000 in base pay for the past three years
  • $955,000 for EMT certification – a 3 percent increase beginning in 2009
  • $244,500 for overtime for the past five years
  • $220,000 for longevity payments
  • $144,800 for holiday pay

Fire Union President Rob Mannix said that the firefighters gave up items in the agreement too.

“When we got the arbitration agreement we were not high-fiving or dancing. We said, ‘alright, this is fair,'” Mannix told the Council. “The mood in the room was, it’s time to move on.”

Deputy Fire Chief Tom McManus told the Council that the Fire Union came forward when the town budget was facing a deficitĀ and took cuts rather than layoff firefighters.

Fire Chief Mario Orangio said time after time the firefighters have allowed new initiatives be put into place without bargaining, even though they do not have a contract. One item was adding Nalaxone, a heroin overdose antidote, to all fire vehicles.

“I said trust the process,” Orangio said. “They agreed and that night we saved a young man from overdosing.”

Firefighter Tom Ganjian encouraged the Council to approve the contract and the funding.

“I want this to get voted and get this behind us,” Ganjian said. “It is really humiliating to come here and almost beg for cost of living (raises). We have bills piling up. We ask you all to approve this.”

Fire Capt. Stephen Igoe said that he has been on the bargaining team for previous contract negotiations and the sticking points have been financial. This time seems different, he said.

“This tastes different. This feels personal,” Igoe told the Council. “This is wrong. Don’t fall prey to outside prejudices.”

The Town Council did not get a chance to discuss the contract. Before debate began, Town Councilor Tony Palomba asked to invoke charter privilege – which ended discussion that meeting. The Council must debate and make a vote at its next meeting on Dec. 9.

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