Youngstown City Council likely to reject firefighter contract
YOUNGSTOWN — A fact finder is proposing a three-year contract between the city and the firefighters union with 1 percent annual raises as well as 1.25 percent “pandemic lump sum” bonuses in the first two years.
But the recommendation from fact finder James E. Rimmel will likely be rejected when city council meets at 10:30 a.m. today.
“There are some sticking points,” said city Law Director Jeff Limbian. “I don’t know if they’re major, but we are requesting council reject the contract to allow us to continue negotiating. We think we’re fairly close on the issues. This gives us an opportunity to work out a few details.”
Charlie Smith, union president, declined to comment Monday except to say that his union members were voting on the contract Monday and today.
If either side rejects the proposal, the union and the city can continue negotiating. But if that fails, a deal would be resolved in binding arbitration.
The firefighters union had requested 3 percent raises annually while the city offered 1 percent yearly raises, which is what other city unions have received.
Rimmel wrote the union’s proposal would cost $3,314,995 while the city’s would cost $1,007,364.11.
Rimmel proposed 1 percent annual raises, retroactive to Jan. 1, but also 1.25 percent lump-sum bonuses related to the COVID-19 pandemic to be paid this June and in March 2022.
“The union has demanded exorbitant economic increases based on the city’s historically high carryover” of general fund money and “infusions of one-time money” because of federal COVID-19 relief funds, Rimmel wrote.
He added: “The city’s financial health is in dire straits, according to seemingly all but the union.”
Rimmel wrote the city has “been more than fair and equitable with these employees in the past and its current proposed wage and benefits package is fair.”
Rimmel also recommended the city reduce the number of years a firefighter would need to get the maximum pay, also called steps, from 10 to nine, effective Jan. 1, 2023, and renumber the steps. That would increase pay for those who haven’t made it to the maximum pay level.
He also called for the elimination of Christmas Eve as a paid holiday. Seven of the eight other city unions get 10 paid holidays while the firefighters get an 11th as part of negotiating in 1989 for the elimination of a paid personal day.
The two sides have had numerous disputes during Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s administration.
Rimmel noted it in his report, writing: “The parties have been very much at odds recently over various issues resulting in the filing of numerous unfair labor charges, grievances and court actions. This strained relationship has carried over into the current negotiations, day to day operations, city council meetings and elsewhere. There is little trust between these two parties with agreement not being arrived at on most issues.”