An interest arbitration board reached a decision Tuesday regarding the FY19 firefighters' contract, awarding an across-the-board wage increase of 2.25 percent for the July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 agreement, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon announced
An interest arbitration board reached a decision Tuesday regarding the FY19 firefighters’ contract, awarding an across-the-board wage increase of 2.25 percent for the July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 agreement, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon announced Wednesday.
The decision puts to rest the final issue related to negotiations that had been ongoing since the prior contract expired on June 30, 2018. Last month, the city and Union ratified a new, cost-neutral three-year agreement that extends from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022. As part of those negotiations, the parties agreed to withdraw all proposals in the matter of the 2018-2019 contract except for wage increases. The union initially sought a 4 percent increase, which was later revised to 3 percent.
“While the arbitrators awarded more than the 1.5 percent increase the city felt was reasonable, I am pleased that they reached a decision that’s fair to the union membership and our community,” the mayor said in a statement. “I would like to once again thank the union for their ongoing cooperation and willingness to work with my administration to resolve this outstanding issue, reach a new collective bargaining agreement and move forward in a positive new direction together.”
In its ruling, the arbitrators found that the union’s proposals were not justified. In the July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018 contract negotiated prior to Solomon taking office as mayor, the union had negotiated a 7.5 percent increase, which was above the statewide average during the same time frame, with the exception of Cranston’s 9 percent increase.
After examining the city’s finances, the board also found that, based on its unassigned fund balance, the city has sufficient cash reserves to subsidize the 2.25 percent increase, which results in a total award of $478,456. It also said that the city’s positive financial outlook was further bolstered by its long-term bond rating, Solomon said.
“It been a long process, “ said firefighters union president Michael Carreiro. “I’m glad to put behind us and move in the right direction.”
Settlement of the new contract, which helped to simplify the FY19 arbitration process, extends from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022, includes no raise in this fiscal year and 2 percent raises in years two and three. The contract will save the city over $600,000 in the first year, and, over the full three years, cost reductions will completely offset the wage increases, resulting in a cost-neutral contract.
In addition, all employees hired subsequent to July 1, 2019 contribute to current co-shares for health insurance, and will also be required to contribute an additional 2 percent of their pay to an OPEB trust, which will be used to help offset their healthcare costs in retirement. By the city actuary’s calculations, this additional contribution to the OPEB fund will reduce the city’s contribution toward retiree healthcare for new hires by 30 percent – a 30 percent savings for taxpayers.
The pact also saves the city and its taxpayers significant money with the reduction of seven days off per year pertaining to sick days, personal days and holidays.
The contract includes implementation of a 24-hour shift schedule, which is projected to lead to decreased overtime costs, and also requires new hires to remain on a lower pay scale for two additional years (four years instead of two) before they are able to achieve the top step.
Several outstanding issues associated with prior contracts have been addressed in the new pact. This contract implements the Tier II pension reform that the previous contracts failed to include and corrects the issue of unused sick time payout.