Watertown’s firefighters have a new contract, an agreement that was made with the town without the animosity that was seen before the last contract was settled.
The deal came the night before the tragic loss of Firefighter Joseph Toscano.
Thursday night, Watertown Firefighters Local 1347 and town officials signed the 3-year contract which gives firefighters a raise of 2.25 percent in Fiscal Year 2017 (which started July 1, 2016), 2 percent in FY 2018 and 2 percent in FY 2019.
The last Watertown Firefighters contract took more than six years to settle. It went to arbitration when the two sides could not come to an agreement, then town officials and the Council rejected the arbitration agreement in December 2014. It was finally settled in September 2015, but people feared relationships between the Firefighters and the Town had been damaged.
Fire Union President Rob Mannix thanked the Town Council and town officials for their part in this contract’s negotiations.
“It was a smooth process that went really well. It was a lot easier than in the past, especially the last one,” said Mannix, who was on the Fire Union negotiating team along with Al Morrash and Paul LaFauci.
Town Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli thanked both sides of the negotiations, and others who helped settle the contract.
“I want to thank the rank and file members for their support of the union leadership and making it happen,” Piccirilli said. “I am pleased we were able to put our differences behind us and work together and make Watertown a better place than it already is today.”
Town Councilor Michael Dattoli wanted to acknowledge the hard work of the members of the Fire Department and added he was glad to see the contract settled so swiftly.
“It is reassuring to know, as I speak with you all, how positive you all have maintained through everything and I feel very comfortable knowing these are the men and women putting our safety first in Watertown,” Dattoli said. “I am pleased to be voting on this agreement, I never would have thought it would have come so quickly.”
The contract had several changes from the previous one, said Town Manager Michael Driscoll.
The Fire Department started providing Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedic service in February, and a new position of paramedic supervisor was created, and firefighters in that position will receive a $2,500 stipend.
The contract gives firefighters a 2.25 percent raise when they reach 10 years with the department, said Driscoll. Also, there is an increase for nightshift staff personal starting July 2017
Other features of the contract include random drug testing starting in July 2017, going to bi-weekly pay periods starting in July 2017, and a requirement for all firefighters to be paid by direct deposit.
Driscoll said the move toward direct deposit began with the last contract, which required new hires to use that method.
The Town Council unanimously approved funding of the new contract, which required a transfer of $278,150 from the FY17 Town Council Reserves to seven accounts in the FY17 town budget:
Fire Department Salaries: $209,675
Fire Overtime: $28,000
Fire Holiday: $15,250
Fire Longevity: $34,025
EMT Compenstation: $15,850
Career Incentive: $2,000
Medicaid Tax: $3,950