City council inks deal with firefighters

December 22, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday approved a two-year labor contract for the city's 54 unionized firefighters, ending a long-standing benefit that city officials have been hoping to remove.

The council voted 5-0 in favor of the contract with little discussion. All city unions now are working under current contracts.

Richard Jordan, a city firefighter and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1605's chief negotiator, said this was the most-debated contract in recent memory. He said the union members voted this week to approve the contract by one vote.


Jordan said they were the "most difficult negotiations I've seen in 30 years." The negotiations began in May.

The contract, which lays out new wage increases for the firefighters, health care costs and other labor rights, will be in effect for two years, retroactive to Aug. 1, 2004.

According to information provided by the city, the terms include:

  • Ending the sick-leave sell-back program.

  • Reducing the number of sick leave days from 15 to 12.

  • A 4.4 percent wage increase for the current budget year, retroactive to Aug. 1.

  • A 2.7 percent wage increase in the next budget year.

  • Caps on health insurance costs for current firefighters. This year, the city will cap health-care cost increases at 10 percent, and next year, at 16.5 percent.

  • Retirees enrolled in city health insurance programs will have the same insurance costs caps as current firefighters this year, but a 20 percent cap next year. Next year, retirees will only be allowed to enroll in the city's less-costly health insurance program.

City officials have been asking the city's collective bargaining units to agree to end a costly sick-leave sell-back program, which allowed firefighters to sell back to the city for cash up to two weeks of accrued sick leave.

The city had already ended the program with its nonunionized employees.

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