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Borough firefighters' contract settled

May 29, 2003|BY DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A three-member arbitration panel has issued an award that settles the impasse between the Borough of Chambersburg and its 17 paid firefighters.

The firefighters had been working without a contract since Jan. 1, 2002.

The firefighters will receive a retroactive increase in their base pay of $1,500 for 2002 and a $1,000 wage adjustment in 2004, according to the arbitrators' award.

The base pay adjustments were "an attempt to alleviate discrepancies that have arisen over the last 10 years between the wage increases granted to the police bargaining unit and those granted to the firefighter unit," according to the arbitrators' award.

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The firefighters will receive retroactive wage increases of 3.5 percent for 2002 and 2 percent for this year, according to the award. Their pay will increase 3 percent in 2004, 3.5 percent in 2003 and 4 percent in 2005.

"It helps to get our guys up in pay a little bit to where we think it should be" in comparison to other fire departments and the borough police, said Pat Martin, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1813.

"There's some things we wished we'd received in the award," but did not get, Martin said. Those included cost of living increases for pensions and "take along" medical insurance after retirement.

The award essentially modifies the contract that expired at the end of 2001 and extends through 2006, according to Borough Manager Eric Oyer. Once an impasse had been reached in the collective bargaining process, each side selected an arbitrator and they in turn selected a third as the impartial chairman.

The issue had been in arbitration since before the old contract expired, according to the award. Oyer said both sides had agreed they would accept the findings of the arbitration panel.

Additionally, firefighters with more than 19 years of experience will receive 40 cents more per hour, the borough will increase its health insurance contribution to $500 and the pension plan will be modified to include overtime in the base salary used to calculate monthly pension benefits.

"We'll eventually do a calculation on their back wages" and pay the firefighters what they are owed retroactively, Oyer said.

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