City and Firefighters Reach Agreement
With the new labor accord, the city avoids making layoffs or closures, according to an announcement from the mayor's office.
The city and its firefighters have reached an agreement on a new eight-year labor accord, according to an announcement sent by the mayor's office Thursday evening.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Jay Colbert, president of the city's firefighters union, Local 76, signed a memorandum of agreement Thursday supporting the labor accord, the announcement says.
The labor accord comes a week after the city and the union seemed to be at an impasse over firefighters compensation.
The firefighters, in December, had won a favorable arbitration decision from the state's Joint Labor-Management Committee, which oversees negotiations between municipalities and local firefighters. Then last week, after the city challenged the arbitration in court, the union won a court decision denying the city's challenge.
Meanwhile, the mayor's office said the city couldn't afford the arbitration award, which would have cost the city at least $4.3 million (though the mayor's office said the intricacies of the award could have cost more). To pay for the award, the mayor's office presented a plan that would have called for at least 30 layoffs and the closure of the West Branch Library, outside Davis Square.
No layoffs or closures
The new labor accord reached Thursday would cost the city $3.3 million in the next fiscal year, and no layoffs or closures are needed, the announcement says.
The labor accord covers fiscal years 2008 to 2015, the announcement says.
The city's firefighters have been working without a new contract since 2007, when their previous contract expired. As such, the labor accord covers firefighters compensation retroactively for fiscal years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. (Fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, so that fiscal year 2012 runs from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012.) The accord also covers the current fiscal year, 2012, and fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Under the agreement, firefighters will receive retroactive pay raises for 2008 through 2012 (2 percent in 2008, 2 percent in 2009, 2.5 percent in 2010, 2.5 percent in 2011 and 3 percent in 2012). Those were exactly the raises called for by the Joint Labor-Management Committee's arbitration decision. Also, firefighters will receive raises of 2.5 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent over the next three fiscal years.
Local 76 made a concession in regard to stipends, which was a sticking point for the city. Under the Joint Labor-Management Committee's decision, stipends were included in firefighters base pay beginning July 1, 2009. Stipends are "non-salary payments for such items as clothing allowances, EMT certification, perfect attendance, hazardous duty and more," Thursday's announcement explains.
With the new labor accord, stipends will be included in base pay beginning July 1, 2012. In addition, stipends for hazardous pay and for perfect attendance won't be included in base pay. Including stipends in base pay affects things like overtime payments and pensions.
The new labor agreement also covers retroactive compensation for the city's fire alarm operators, the announcement says. Also, Local 76 agreed to defer $420,000 in retroactive compensation until fiscal year 2013.
"This agreement maintains the integrity of the arbitration award, while addressing the concerns of the city, which was important to Somerville firefighters," Colbert said in a statement included in Thursday's announcement.
"It's a classic negotiated settlement," said Curtatone in a statement. "Both sides gave something and both sides got something in return."
Under the agreement reached Thursday, the city will drop its legal challenges and the union will withdraw its case form the Joint Labor-Management Committee.