Thursday, January 19, 2012

City, Firefighters Reach Agreement on 8-Year Labor Accord

At 5 p.m. today, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Somerville Firefighters Local 76 signed a memorandum of agreement on a new 8-year labor accord. Both sides made concessions. No layoffs and no closures of facilities, including the West Branch Library, will result. The official press release follows: 

City Agrees to Same Salary Percentage Increases Called for in JLMC Award Plus 3 More Years of Annual Wage Increases.  Union Agrees to Eliminate Retroactive Inclusion of Stipends in Base Salary; Both Sides Agree on Smaller Package of Stipends to Be Rolled into Base Salary Starting July 1, 2012; Mayor to Seek Approval for $3.3 Million Appropriation; No Layoffs or Closures Contemplated
– Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Somerville Firefighters Local 76 President Jay Colbert announced today that they have signed a memorandum of agreement on a comprehensive eight-year collective bargaining accord covering Fiscal Years 2008-2015.  Mayor Curtatone said he planned to submit a new $3.3-million appropriation to the Board of Aldermen to cover the costs of retroactive and current-year increases in firefighter pay.  The new appropriation would supersede a $4.3-million appropriation that the Mayor submitted last week under the terms of a compensation award issued on December 13, 2011 by the Massachusetts Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC).

The new agreement signed today also covers FY2008-2012 compensation for the city’s fire alarm operators, who are represented by Local 76 but who had not been included in the JLMC award.  Under the terms of the new accord, the firefighters also agreed to defer an estimated $420,000 in additional retroactive compensation to FY2013, which begins on July 1st.  Both the City and its firefighters further agreed to drop all litigation associated with the JLMC process, and the firefighters agreed to withdraw their case before the JLMC.     

“This agreement still presents major funding challenges but, compared to the terms of the JLMC award, it offers real advantages to both the City and its firefighters,” said Mayor Curtatone.  “In that sense, I think it’s appropriate to call this a win-win deal.  I am very grateful to Jay Colbert and his team for working with the City to hammer out a longer term approach to increasing firefighter compensation in a predictable and stable way that, in the end, the city can afford.”      

“This agreement maintains the integrity of the arbitration award, while addressing the concerns of the city, which was important to Somerville firefighters, because we not only work here but live here as well,” said Colbert. “We look forward to putting this process behind us and focusing on protecting the people of our great city.”

The JLMC award called for five years of annual wage increases in firefighter base salary commencing on July 1, 2007.  In addition, the JLMC directed the City to include all eight types of annual stipend (non-salary payments for such items as clothing allowances, EMT certification, perfect attendance, hazardous duty and more) to “be rolled into the based pay and considered as regular compensation for all purposes” as of July 1, 2009.

Under the new accord, the firefighters agreed to put off the inclusion of stipends in base salaries until July 1, 2012.  They also agreed to the removal of two stipends – those for perfect attendance and hazardous duty pay – from the list of stipends that will be rolled into the base starting in FY2013.  In turn, the City agreed to fund the same five annual wage increases called for in the JLMC award for the years FY2008 – FY2012 (2%, 2%, 2.5%, 2.5%, 3.0%) as well as adding three more annual increases (2.5%, 2%,2%) covering FY2013 through FY2015 (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015).  The City also agreed to an increase in firefighter detail pay.

“It’s a classic negotiated settlement,” said Curtatone.  “Both sides gave something and both sides got something in return.  We can now embark on a long period of more predictable compensation costs for a major area of city spending.  In collective bargaining, as in everything else, we need to govern today with an eye on tomorrow.  This agreement lets us do that.”

Photo Caption: Somerville Firefighters Union Local 76 President Jay Colbert (third from left), and Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone (center) sign a memorandum of agreement for a multi-year collective bargaining accord.  Other participants in the signing ceremony, held on Thursday evening, January 19th, are Union Local 76 Secretary/Treasurer Tom Ross (left foreground) and, for the City, Chief Labor Counsel Robert V. Collins, Jr, (second from left), Finance Director Ed Bean, and Chief Fire Engineer Kevin Kelleher (back to camera).   


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