October 23rd, 2013 | City

Fire union reaches agreement

The New Haven Fire union is the latest municipality to reach an agreement with the City of New Haven on labor issues. After three years of tense negotiations, the two parties jointly approved policies towards salary, healthcare, pensions, holiday pay and mandatory staffing level on Monday.

The new deal includes the following terms:

  • The $67,283 base salary for city firefighters will not incur any bonuses for the time elapsed since the previous union contract expired on June 30, 2011.
  • Firefighters will now receive healthcare through individual health savings accounts (HSAs), in which money from both firefighters and the City government is stored to pay medical costs. Previously, the HSA option, which cost each firefighter $18,000 per year, was offered as an alternative to the traditional insurance model.
  • Pension for new hires, who now have to wait 25 years instead of 20 to retire, will not factor in overtime pay.
  • All active firefighters will now contribute 10.75 percent of their salaries to pension, up from the previous 8.75 percent.
  • Firefighters will be paid for 10 hours per 13 holidays in a year. The old contract called for 12 paid hours.
  • 72 firefighters are required to be on staff for each of the day’s four work shifts, totaling to 288 per day. Previous conditions called for 73 per shift.

Union president James Kottage called the deal a “concessionary contract,” before saying that the Fire Union was pleased nonetheless with its terms in a Monday article published by the New Haven Independent.

Had negotiations continued for a few more weeks, the decision would have gone to a panel of arbitrators to decide on an agreement after hearing arguments from both parties. Kottage said that the looming deadline and the uncertainty of the arbitration process helped push the deal through.

City Managers reached a similar deal in May, roughly three months after the New Haven Police came to terms with the City in February. The Fire Union deal was designed to stagger cuts towards those with less time served as a firefighter and will save the city $2.1 million per year.

“I’m pleased with the final outcome,” Kottage said to the the New Haven Independent. “During a difficult time, we feel that we’ve accomplished a very fair contract for the city and taxpayers and for the firefighters.”

A document formalizing the deal will be drafted, and the agreement’s conditions will be retroactively applied from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016. The reduced staffing requirements will save the City $560,000 per year.