Monday, September 24, 2012

Is the Firefighter contract a good deal for the City of Chester?

This week’s Chester Spirit said that Chester firefighters are going to receive an annual wage increase of 35% through 2015. I didn’t know much about the firefighter’s contract issues, but a 35% raise sure got my attention.

The next sentence says, “In 2016, the salary increase will be 4% and in 2016, 4.5%.” 

Is it 4% or 4.5%?

At that point I figured The Spirit had simply botched the figures so I sought out more information.

I’ve been out of town for a few weeks so I haven’t been on top of all that’s going on around here, but today I did find the September 13th Daily Times article on the contract which is probably more correct.

After reading their article, I have more questions.

First, the actual salary figures appear to be:
  • A 3 percent retroactive base pay increases for each of the last five years.
  • They will receive annual wage increases of 3.5 in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  • Their salaries jump by 4 percent in 2015
  • They are due a 4.5 percent raise in 2016, the last year of the contract.

So, if the current top salary is $28.83 per hour, let’s project that out to 2016. 

New Base Salary (% increase that year) (Retroactive pay)
  • 2007 $29.69 (3%) ($1788)
  • 2008   $30.58 (3%) ($3639)
  • 2009   $31.50 (3%) ($5553)
  • 2010   $32.44 (3%) ($7508)
  • 2011   $33.41 (3%) ($9525)
  • 2012  $34.58  (3.5%) 
  • 2013  $35.79  (3.5%)
  • 2014  $37.05  (3.5%)
  • 2015  $38.53  (4%)
  • 2016  $40.26  (4.5%)

if my math is correct, that equates to a 39% base pay increase in 10 years, from $28.83 to $40.26. They were making $28.83 at the start of September 2012 and $34.58 at the end of September 2012 when the contract was signed, almost an 19% salary increase overnight. 

The contract will award firefighters retroactive base pay increases for each of the last five years which I estimate will be a check in the amount of $28,000 for a top rate firefighter. (Does retro include average overtime hours? Will they get retro for this part of 2012?)

Mayor John Linder, who formerly oversaw the firefighters as the director of public safety, said he was happy the firefighters finally have a contract, but noted the deal is costly for the city. He said the retroactive raises will cost the city about $1.5 million.

Costly indeed. Where is this money coming from? It certainly wasn’t in this year’s budget.

“We worked very hard to get it done,” Linder said. “We, as a council, did what we could with what we inherited. They’re at peace with themselves and so are we, but we have to pay them.”

Is Mayor Linder speaking from both sides of his mouth? The prior statement suggests that he formerly oversaw the firefighters as the director of public safety in his role as city councilman. Doesn’t that mean that he inherited the contract situation from himself? Or, was he not involved in contract talks as a councilman? I really don’t know.

And the statement I keep reading about the firefighters not having a contract. Weren’t they working under the old contract?

But the real statement of the day is, “but we have to pay them.” I’d like to know how.

Besides salary and retro pay, the firefighters get two more paid days off (more money), and the existing pension service increment for any firefighter who retired before 2007 increased 5 times (from $100 to $500 - more money).

However, Councilman Jacobs is quoted as saying that both sides made concessions.

The only concession listed in the paper is an increase in health insurance co-pays. What working person hasn’t experienced that one. 

Maybe the increase in health insurance co-pays will balance out the enormous contract awarded to the firefighters.

I’d love to know more about the concessions on both sides. A 10-year contract seems quite long when the rest of the work world is doing 3 to 5 year contracts (more 3s than 5s). What is the city giving up to find $1.5 million to make these retro payments (staff and service reductions; more taxes; loans)? 

If the past administration couldn’t agree on a solution in nearly 5 years of negotiations, I’m curious how the new administration could figure it out in just a few months.

As long as everyone is happy, I guess it’s okay. However, I’ve rarely seen both sides walk away from these type of contracts happy like they’ve done here. 

Hopefully, you readers will provide more insight.


  1. Interesting...they are running into burning buildings saving strangers, cutting people from cars. Not to mention the busiest fire department in the county. They deserve and earn every penny, not to mention your way off on the numbers. Why don't u ask is it worth the $105,000 dollars they pay the fire commissioner a year to not show up at work, or the $82,000+ they pay the so called "assistance fire marshall" who does nothing and was the ring leader of the act 180 cheating scandal...still employed by the

    1. If my numbers are off then what the papers are reporting is off. That's why I'm asking for help and insight since I don't have the contract in front of me.

      I never said firefighters didn't deserve whatever they got. I'm just trying to understand what they got.

      Does the commissioner make $105,000? Are there any firefighters making over $100,000 with overtime, shift differential, holiday pay, etc. If so, great. Get all you can.

      I'm not trying to compare salaries. As a tax payer in this city, I'm trying to understand exactly what my political leaders agreed to pay you.

      If you can help me with the numbers, I'd appreciate it, and so would the readers.

  2. I suggest you apply if you think they get paid so well now!! They deserve this if not more, Congrats boys!!

    TB IAFF I-17

    1. I never said they didn't deserve what they got. I'm just trying to understand what they got.

      If it is what I project it to be, I'm wondering how the city will pay for it.

    2. maybe Linder will be turning in that city truck. Back to the dealer and stop over paying all of his and kirkland family on city payroll, so the hard working firefighters can get the money they so well earn! Seeing Linder is NOT a tax payer in the city! chester city demo. and tax payer

    3. Can you get $1.5 million out of that solution?

  3. Man do they have classes on news reporting?? Getting The facts right would be a start! Stefan

    1. Does who have classes on news reporting? There are degrees in journalism taught in college if that's what you mean.

      What facts are wrong?

      The purpose of the post is to get the facts right. Can you help with that? Was the Chester Spirit correct? Are firefighters getting 35% raises the next couple years?

      Are the Daily Times facts wrong?

      Are my calculations wrong? If so, where did I go wrong? I'll be happy to make corrections.

      This is not a news report. This is a blog post.

  4. $28 an hour is prob what a Battalian Chief with over 20 years on the job makes. I am a firefighter and I only make $20.11 an hour.

    1. The Chester Spirit reports that Chester fire fighters salaries range from $17.85 to $28.83. I didn't make up the numbers.

      If you make $20.11, just do the math based on your numbers to see where you land.

    2. I know the Math. Was just making the Point that Firefighters arn't making $28 an hour. The BASE rate for a firefighter is all the same 20.11 an hour. After 20 years and 2 promotions I might be making $28 an hour. HOPEFULLY.

    3. Got you. Most firefighters maxed out at $20.11 with the old contract. I didn't know.

  5. Mr. Roots. 5 years of this contract have already past.
    F/F's continued working covered under the old contract which is the law. No raises during those years.
    The City elected to take it to Binding Arbitration over those years and could not win their case. They appealed also and lost and were threatening to take F/F's AGAIN to court for another lengthy and costly losing battle until some of the newly elected minds realized this. These raises are barely if at all a cost of living increase. The back pay that is owed the F/F's was money in the bank for the city for 5 yrs now. I'm sure they were wise and frugal enough to invest it effectively. Don't be shocked by the sticker price, the City has the money and you know it. Lawyers and accountants and judges have all seen the books. This is not any better than what the last administration gave the police without a fight. And remember this: Binding Arbitration was awarded to F/F's and yet they agreed to modify things so YES the City got things they sought too.

    1. I realize the contract is 5 years late. Did you notice the 5 years of retro calculations?
      I mentioned they are working under the old contract. But, many people say that they were working without a contract. Not true.
      The Daily Times article referred to the arbitration. I didn't think I needed to repeat it.
      I'm not sure if the retro money was saved by the city or not.
      If the city has money that's not accounted for in the budget, I know nothing about it.
      What things did the city get that they sought? That's what I'm trying to learn.

  6. They worked under the old contract protections for those 5 yrs. indeed without a new contract. Semantics.
    You mentioned most contracts are 3-5 yrs. this in reality IS a 5 yr deal going forward.
    The City has known they would at the VERY least be bound to 3% increases no matter what, in fact that is what they gave police for those 5 yrs F/F's without a deal. I'm sure if you dig deep in the City budget and Act 47 plan you may find that it was anticipated. What they did with that money?? That's the question isn't it??? I'm certain someone has the answer you seek.

    1. I'm not the investigative type. I leave that to the professionals. But I am seeking answers from those of you who know.

      I guess you're right. Procrastination has turned a 10 year contract into a 5 year contract.

  7. Mr. Roots,
    I didn't get a Social Security increase for two of these years. I find this odd. You didn’t mention (or maybe didn’t know about) the additional pay out from the city on the IAFF Local 1400 CBA that provides parity with the police union agreement – otherwise known as the “Me Too” clause. When the city reaches agreement with the police officers’ union (if it takes forever!), the firefighters will also get the same increase percentage awarded to police officers over and above the increases you posted. There is also the longevity increase that is not mentioned in your calculations. So those base salary numbers are automatically calculated with an increase for years of service in the department.
    What should be of more importance to the taxpayers in the city is that this IAFF Local 1400 contract and its terms and conditions are proudly touted and considered to be a nationally precedent setting "sweetheart" agreement with a financially distressed city.
    No doubt the Union President and Vice President are quite pleased with themselves and the outcome of their negotiations! I can’t believe they used the word “negotiations" So what were the concessions from the union again – other than the residency requirement change?
    Perhaps these two individuals would provide you with a copy of the actual agreement for you to review and would be willing to discuss the other “benefits” awarded the firefighters. That might be the best way for someone outside of city government to look at the actual cost to the city taxpayers. The CBA is published online and is available to other fire departments and IAFF members who have various website secret passwords, but it’s not disclosed to the residents of the city. Why is that?
    Also understand that there is no limit to the number of firefighters who can be off duty and paid for personal time, holidays, sick time, union business, funerals, or any other reason so actually, this agreement is just a tool to generate overtime pay for shift coverage – mostly for the Captains and a couple Battalion Chiefs and just a few of the firefighters - and will cost the city much more than this initial retro pay and the upcoming annual increases. Don't confuse the base numbers with payroll calcs that include shift differential and other adjustments as well. A win-win situation or just turning over the keys to the asylum to the inmates? Not sure myself!
    For now though, apparently the firefighter’s union officials and their legal reps are in control of the city budget and have successfully captured the Department of Public Safety. Because the city exsists just for them. Sweet!

    1. Thanks for this information. Much of it I was not aware of. I can't stress enough that all I know is from the newspapers which I found either lacking details or wrong.

      Next week, I'll gather up all the comments (and emails sent to me) and present the details and opinions sent by readers.

    2. The missing fire commissioner finally heard from! Over a month!

  8. I think the Firemen's contract is fair except the caveat that gives them what ever the Policemen get. This has long been a tool the city used not to negotiate with the Police Dept, knowing they would have to pay the firemen the exact same if raises or bonuses were negotiated. It took the FOP years to get rid of that caveat before, now this group of Bozos aloowed it back in. They are both dangerous jobs, but we have crime all day everyday, how many fires do we have?

    1. I had read about the Police salary connection but didn't understand it. I can see why the police don't like it.

  9. Mr. Roots,
    Am I understanding correctly that all firefighters AND the rank officers of Captains AND Battalion Chiefs are all included in the contract? Why wouldn't the Battalion Chiefs be management? That would mean there is no fiscal oversight or protection for the city as an employer on any duty shift at the FD? For some reason that doesn't seem to make sense in the employment world because there are always at least supervisors or some management figure in any union shop work world to guarantee responsible actions by both workers and management as agreed. So who is doing that at the FD or in the Department of PS?
    It's confusing because the base pay plus shift differential, plus rank adjustment, plus this longevity increase thing, plus overtime, plus what else would equal an actual per hour pay rate in contrast to base pay figures? Base pay is a landing point not a pay rate so that's not even a consideration here - everyone employed has a base pay rate but that doesn't mean that figure is what you are actually paid.
    I'm curious now, is there ever a time when a firefighter gets rank officer rate of pay for a shift and if so, what is the situation that brings that rate into play? How many firefighters are employed by the city? The more I'm reading the more questions pop up!
    I hope you can help us to better understand what all this contract talk means and clarify the points in all fairness for both sides because otherwise, it seems a little shady - just sayin'...
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

    1. It's all so confusing.

      I used the $28.83 figure assuming most of the firefighters were closer to the top rate. I didn't realize those rates are reserved for Battalion Chiefs. I thought a chief would be a management position too.

      There always is more to total salary than base pay. Most of us understand health benefits, overtime, shift differential. Rank adjustments and longevity thingees aren't so common to us regular working people.

      I'll sum up all the comments, questions, and statements in a future post.

    2. Oh ! No ! Pop Pop!

  10. To Anonymous: The city exists just for them? It was all done to generate overtime? Secret documents on secret website with secret passwords? I think you read to many conspiracy theories. And the contract wasn’t negotiated. It was AWARDED by a neutral party. The union tried to negotiate with the city and couldn’t come to terms. Both sides had representatives that pleaded their cases to the neutral party as to what they wanted in the contract and were allowed to give evidence to support that. When the city didn’t like what the award said they appealed it, twice. And both times the courts upheld the award. Would the union have appealed it if it went the other way for them? Shake your head side to side and say no. That’s the risk you take when you go to “Binding Arbitration.” You want to talk about overtime? There will always be overtime in every city department, in every budget; police, fire, streets & highway. It’s not unique to Chester either, every other municipality that pays people has overtime. Employees are afforded days off and when they are off the spots need to be filled. Maybe if the HIRED more firefighters like they did it would cut back on the over time. You’re upset because a firefighter is sick or has to burry a family member and another one gets paid overtime because he works more than 40 hours a week? The police in their contract AWARD also got higher raises then the fire department did. Did the fire department demand the additional “hazard duty” increase that the police got with their award? Again, shake your head side to side and say NO. Where you think we get “shift differential” is beyond me and yes we get a longevity raise which is 2% every 3 years. That has been there long before this contract. What else was in there long before this contract is an increase in percentage for Captains and battalion Chiefs. And why is it every time a firefighter gets a contract with raises it is going to break the backs of tax payers? Not just here but across the country, the greedy firemen cost too much money. The city has a budget of $42 million and the fire department’s budget is maybe $5 million. Do you math and say “12%.” 12 cents of every dollar for the greedy firemen. Oh my, how has and how will the city manage? You want to talk about wasteful spending of salaries? Talk about the firing of city employees so that positions could be opened up for the incoming politician’s relatives. Or how one of the first orders of business for the new administration was to redact the pay cuts of council and mayor that the last administration gave. Screw it, lets give firefighters minimum wage and strip them of their benefits and see the quality of people we have that we entrust our lives to.

    1. Yo dude...a person's "quality" isn't based on what they do for a living or how much they get paid or what their benefits are or where they live or what they drive...lots of quality people only earn minimum wage these days in this economy and are trying to pay bills and feed kids and hold on to their might need your reality check meter recalibrated...the blog is about trying to understand its not damming all got the deal so let folks try and go outside and get some fresh air...Wow!

  11. To Anonymous: Caveat? Trying to use fancy words to disguise the fact that you are an idiot? “They are both dangerous jobs, but we have crime all day everyday, how many fires do we have?” Because that’s all the fire department does is go to fires. They don’t cut people out of cars. They don’t assist the EMS with doing chest compressions on someone who is in cardiac arrest. They don’t deal with hazardous materials situations. They don’t wash the blood down in the street from the shootings or throw ladders to the roofs when police are looking for evidence. They don’t help residents who have locked themselves out of their homes get back in. Oh and you know what else they don’t do, they don’t go to calls for electric wires down during storms and have a tree fall causing a wire to electrocute one of them like one of our brothers was last week on Kerlin Street. But hey those wires on top of the poles don’t have enough electricity to kill you. I could keep going but like you said we just go to fire and we don’t do any of that. Yea cops deserve more because they deal with more.

  12. If salaries and contract perks are so important then you can’t just look at one. Why wasn't there an outcry when the police received their contract award in January about their raises? What were their raises? Why wount those raises break the city and tax payers backs? What else did they receive other than residency? Why weren't their salaries or raises brought into question? How much does a police officer make? And what about the sergeants, captains and the upper echelon? What are they costing the city? What perks do the cops have? But let’s not stop there. Let’s examine all city employee’s salaries and job perks. (And to be perfectly clear I have no issue with what any police officer makes. It is well earned and they should be making more. I also take no issue with any employee of the city. They all have jobs to do and should be compensated for it in a fair and equal manner. My whole point is why is it that only the fire department’s contract was singled out as an issue when no other contracts that obviously cost the city money due to raises weren’t.)

    1. I'm like you. I have no issue with what anyone makes. Get all you can.

      The only reason this topic is on this blog is because I was confused what the newspapers were printing about the salaries. If anyone is getting a 35% raise, I want to know why.

      We've learned that the 35% was misprint, I think.

      The other question is getting a better understanding how the city will pay.

      All the other noise is just that, noise.

  13. Mr. Roots, why don't u just call or email Mr. Landrum and get the real story

    1. If someone gives me the contract, I would give you the real contract story.

      Who is Mr. Landrum? I'm not that connected.

    2. Landrum is the union president for Local 1400. His info can be found at It would be nice if the real information was out there and just not assumptions and false statements. The firefighters are the only department in the city that if you call for help someone will be at your door in 3 minutes or less 24/7 365 days a year and they are the ones that have been screwed not only for the past 6+ years but even longer then that. If it wasn't for the current members of city council (especially Al Jacobs)finally seeing this for themselves they would still be fighting. They are only getting a portion of what they have been denied for so many years and that is why it appears to look like a lot.

    3. Maybe Mr. Roots you should compair what the FOP has recieved over the years compaired to the firefighters. You might also want to investigate why the city appealed the firefighters award but didn't the FOP's and they recieved more then the firefighters got.

    4. Nope. I'm not investigating anything. Just trying to clarify the newly awarded firefighter contract so we're all not believing they got a 35% raise through 2015.

    5. I visited and didn't see the contract. That's the real information that would clear up this issue, right?

    6. Lol... " I'm not investigating anything".... Isn't that your job? that's hilarious. don't search for the facts or anything roots.

    7. No, that's not my job.

      However, if you'd like to pay me to take the time and do an investigation, I start at $50 an hour.

      But, you can continue to get my opinion on the facts presented in the press for free.

    8. Mr Roots, how can you honestly call yourself a professional? You state "I'm not investigating anything. Just trying to clarify the newly awarded firefighter contract" well wouldn't "trying to clarify" require some investigation on your part? Instead it just seems like you throw out there whatever bullshit you have no matter what the source either true or false and just let the bitch session start. Just because you read something doesn't make it true. I hope you don't get paid to manage this blog because you are a disgrace to true journalism professionals everywhere.

    9. Where have you heard or read that I've called myself a professional?

      I'm not a journalist. Most bloggers aren't.

      No, I don't get paid to do this, and yes, this forum is for people to express their opinions any way they choose, as long as it's respectful. Isn't that what you're doing here?

      Have you found another place where people are discussing this issue?

      Did you sent the same note to the Daily Times and the Chester Spirit, two businesses that hire trained professional journalist?

      If they can't get it right, why do you expect me to spend the time and effort to investigate.

      No one has convinced me that my numbers are wrong. What's there to investigate.

    10. He tried journalism... And failed.. Remember the Chester Spotlight... Where he honored Melvin Wade as business man of the year.... Seems his bs paper went away soon after that. Your so interested in 1400... Ask for a Q n A at a union meeting Roots.

    11. The only thing the Chester Spotlight failed at was finding people to join me to keep it going. Plenty of loyal readers and advertisers. Every issue made a profit. Did 12 more issues after Melvin Wade. Stopped monthly publishing in February 2010 and started the blog in March 2010. Just to prove I can put out a paper at aanytime, did an ossue for the Chester High School state championship basketball team for their bamquet last year.

      I wasn't a journalist then and I'm not one now.

      I'm not interested in 1400. Just wanted to know of firefighters got a 35% raise as listed in the Chester Spirit.

    12. and when you find the TRUE figures will you Admit that YOU ARE WRONG?

    13. I'll admit I'm wrong now if someone would please end this madness and send some real figures.

    14. I start at $50 an hour.

      How about you trade you hourly rate with what a firefighter or police officer makes?

    15. Fair enough. Pay me the 2012 base pay of a fire fighter, $24.59, and I'll do your investigation for you.

    16. Like the investigation you did on Melvin Wade that lead you to name him business man of the year....
      Honest to God Roots you may not be a professional but you are the best amateur when it comes to stirring up $h;1. All those cops, and firemen died of CANCER and you put Wade on the front page and then brag about making a profit. Even the Mail man got Cancer...the mail man !!!!!!!!!!!!


  14. Ohhhhhh! Nooooooo!
    White man put Pork in the blog !
    Huhhhhhhhhh !
    Pop ! Pop !


  15. Mr. Roots, You asked a few resonable questions after reading a DT article and certainly played fair in these posts but The Angry Fireman Birds are hurling it you, residents, police, city government, taxpayers, strangers, poor folk, accident victims, et al! Those stations must be absolute hell to work in if this is the sort of misplaced rage and general mental instability these guys appear to carry around with them. Getting simple answers has been like crossing an Afghan minefield! Comments full of hate and mean - downright abrasive!

    They get the agreement and still can't get satisfied or happy. Sad with all the truly hard times people much less fortunate are experiencing these days....WTH?!! Thanks for your patience and persistence!