NEW CASTLE Firefighters, police, officials reach tentative agreements

A change in medical benefits will save the city $200,000 next year.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Firefighters and police have come to tentative contracts with the city that will eliminate the use of part-time workers.
The deal was made possible by the unions agreeing to change health-care carriers, said John DiMuccio, city administrator.
The contract will likely go to city council for its approval at the and of this month and then to firefighters and police in October.
DiMuccio said they are still working out wording on an absenteeism policy, but the rest of the contract is basically done.
"Negotiations went very well. We picked up a lot of things we asking for," said Tom Bulisco, president of the firefighters union.
Kevin Seelbaugh, president of the New Castle City Police Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 21, agreed.
"There were some things we wanted, but realistically you can't get everything. We got the main points that we wanted and the city got some things it wanted," Seelbaugh said.
Promotions, pay scales
Seven part-time police officers and seven part-time firefighters will be promoted to full time when the contracts go into effect Jan. 1, DiMuccio said.
The new full-time employees, however, will have a different wage scale than those who were hired full-time before this new contract, he said.
New full-time police officers will start out with an annual salary of $24,500 and new full-time firefighters at a salary of $22,500, according to the tentative contract.
DiMuccio said police have agreed to one more step in the pay scale to make it five years before a new full-time patrolman reached the top pay. Top pay for a patrolman in 2003 will be $43,812.
Bulisco said they also added an extra step and it will take new full-time firefighters six years to reach the top pay, which will be $42,146 next year.
DiMuccio said police have agreed that new officers will not get full family medical benefits for their first two years. The officer will receive his benefits for free, but must pay 50 percent of the cost for any family members.
Firefighters, instead, opted for lower pay increases and took the full family benefits, DiMuccio said.
Bulisco said most of the part-time firefighters are married or are getting married and wanted benefits more than the pay.
Firefighters will receive 4-percent raises in the first year, 31/2 percent the second year and 3 percent the last three years of the contract.
Police are getting identical raises, but opted to leave the last two years of the contract open to renegotiation for salary only, DiMuccio said.
DiMuccio noted that the raises and increasing manpower from part time to full time would not have been possible without the health insurance savings. He said the benefits are the same, but they will be administered by the Teamsters Trust and Welfare Fund, instead of a municipal employees group.
The city will save about $200,000 in health-care costs next year, he said.
Union officials say the change in status from some part timers to an all-full time work force will make a difference.
Bulisco said they schedule five full-timers and one part-timer per shift. With the new contract, they should have seven firefighters on duty at all times.
Seelbaugh added that the change will give the police an extra man and a half each week.
DiMuccio said it will also help the city.
"It's not easy to manage a union and nonunion work force at the same time. There are different job descriptions, overtime requirements. It made it difficult to administer and somewhat confusing," he said.
There will be 27 full-time firefighters and 37 full-time police officers when the contract goes into effect in January.
City officials have agreed to never go below 24 full-time firefighters and 32 full-time police officers for length of the contract.

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