Firefighters make offer to extend pact
The deal helps the city balance this year's budget, the mayor said.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- City firefighters are offering to extend their expiring contract for a year, including forgoing an across-the-board pay increase.
The move, however, also prevents firefighters from possibly having to make contributions to health-care insurance or co-payments for another year.
Legislation will go before council tonight to extend the pact. The firefighters union has approved the extension, said Law Director John McNally IV. City administration will recommend council take the deal, he said.
"We think it's a fair exchange at the moment," McNally said of firefighters skipping an across-the-board pay increase while facing no increased health benefit costs.
The fire union's contract expires Aug. 31. The extension would leave all contract terms in place until Aug. 31, 2005, except for across-the-board pay raises.
The city would save about $300,000 with the one-year extension instead of paying all firefighters a 3-percent raise, which has been the trend the past five years, said Finance Director David Bozanich.
By leaving health care givebacks out of the extension, the city forgoes about $40,000, he said.
Two dozen firefighters with fewer than five years of experience who get raises based on experience still would get bigger paychecks under the extension. For example, a first-year firefighter this year making $27,267 who reaches a second year under the extension would make $31,135.
All others -- 112 firefighters -- would receive the same base pay in the extension as they get now, unless they pass a test and receive a promotion to a better-paying job. That includes firefighters with five or more years of experience and lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs.
Firefighters offered the extension in their first bargaining session a few weeks ago, McNally said.
Mayor George M. McKelvey praised firefighters for recognizing the city's financial struggles.
"It helps us with our goal to balance the budget this year," he said.
Dave Cook, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 312, couldn't be reached to comment Tuesday.
McKelvey said he hopes city police officers take notice of the firefighters' move.
An arbitration hearing is Aug. 12 for the city and patrol officers union.
In May, a state fact finder suggested officers take a wage freeze in the first year of a three-year contract. The report also suggested officers receive 3-percent and 4-percent raises the next two years. The report also recommended officers start making monthly contributions toward health insurance premiums in December.
The city sought a wage freeze and 10-percent health benefit contributions. Police sought 4 percent and 60-cent per hour raises and no health benefit contributions.
City council accepted the fact finder's report, but police unanimously rejected it, leading to the binding arbitration.