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.
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.