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46% raise set for starting Youngstown firefighters

YOUNGSTOWN — City council is expected to approve a three-year contract Wednesday with the firefighters union that increases the starting pay by 46 percent and provides the largest salary increases in at least 15 years to its members.

The current annual starting salary for city firefighters is $25,471. Under the new contract, it would go to $37,145 per year starting Jan. 1, 2022. That new starting salary is what a firefighter after four years on the job now earns.

The city hasn’t hired a new firefighter in three years, however, so the new starting pay would impact only future hires.

The contract, which the union ratified Sept. 22, calls for all firefighters to get a 1 percent raise this year.

It also includes a 2 percent raise, effective Jan. 1, and a 2.5 percent raise, effective Jan. 1, 2023, for firefighters at the top of the scale, which is obtained after working nine years for the department, as well as for lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, the chief fire investigator and chief inspector.

Of the 116 members of the fire union, 32 are below the top of the pay scale, according to the city’s finance department.

The department has 64 ranking officers and 52 firefighters.

Effective Jan. 1, two more firefighters would hit the top of the pay scale and another 10 reach it in January 2023, according to the finance department.

By Jan. 1, 2023, battalion chiefs would earn $79,601 in annual salary and firefighters at the top of the pay scale would get $60,548.

The pay scale for all but the top level remains the same through the proposed contract, which would expire May 31, 2023.

But with each year on the job, firefighters will move up the pay scale and earn more money.

For example, those with four years of experience now earn $37,145 annually. When they get to their fifth year in 2022, the salary increases to $41,268 — 11 percent more than what they now receive.

NEW SALARY STANDARD

City workers, including those in the fire union, have received a total of 7.5 percent in raises over the past 13 years. That included seven years with no salary increase.

The city has struggled financially for years, but received about $88 milion in federal COVID-19 funds — more than enough to offset those losses.

The fire union pay raises for 2022 and 2023 are setting a new standard for how the city will pay its other labor unions as well as management and nonunion employees.

On Wednesday’s council agenda is a proposal to give a 2 percent raise, starting Jan. 1, 2022, and 2.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2023, to management and nonunion city employees.

There would be 149 workers affected by the proposed raises, including department heads, supervisors, all assistant law directors, court bailiffs, clerk of courts employees and anyone else who isn’t a member of a union.

Traditionally, the city provides the same pay raises for every union. The fire union is receiving a 1 percent increase for this year, which was the amount given to other unions.

The city is negotiating with its police patrol union on a three-year deal as the old one expired Nov. 30.

That contract is expected to include the same pay raises for firefighters: 2 percent in 2022 and 2.5 percent in 2023. The patrol officers contract would go into 2024 with an expected raise for that year too.

The proposed fire contract states if the patrol union gets a raise higher than 4.5 percent total for 2022 and 2023, its members would get the same increases.

The city also is planning to increase the starting salary for patrol officers, currently $16.49 per hour, to a figure close to $20 an hour in the first year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s uncertainty back in December, two unions — one representing water department workers and the other representing city hall and health district employees — agreed to delay pay increases.

The contract with the water employees called for no pay increase in 2020 or 2021 with a 3.5 percent increase in January 2022. That is equivalent to the 1.5 percent raises other unions received in 2020, 1 percent that other unions received in 2021 and 1 percent in 2022.

The other union received no pay raise this year and will get a 2 percent raise in 2022 — 1 percent for that year and 1 percent for this year. That contract also includes a 1 percent raise for 2023.

Though contracts with those unions won’t be reopened, city officials say they will get higher raises in their next deals to make up the difference in the amounts they will receive compared with the firefighters.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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