By Sue Botos
After initially rejecting the recommendations of a state employment board fact-finder, the city and Rocky River Fire Fighters Local 659 of the International Association of Fire Fighters have reached an agreement.
At its last legislative session of 2013, City Council approved a measure entering the city into a three-year contract with firefighters that calls for a wage freeze through 2014 and a 1-percent raise effective January 2015. The third year of the contract includes a reopening clause for the beginning of a new round of negotiations.
Under the new contract, a beginning firefighter would continue to make $52,523.94 in 2014, then increase to $53,049.18 in 2015. Lieutenant salaries would rise from $76,902.04 to $77,671.06 and captains from $86,130.30 to $86,991.60.
The increase will amount to an additional $228,400 in the 2014 budget.
Council and firefighters said no to the original recommendations of Donald Jaffe after the fact-finder was called in due to a stall in collective bargaining between the city and firefighters union. Talks had been going on since November.
City firefighters had essentially been operating under a contract last negotiated in 2008, according to union officials. To help balance the 2011 budget, all bargaining units, including police, fire and service, agreed to freeze wages, going without the traditional 2.5-percent increases. The following year, only firefighters agreed to continue their contract deference until 2013. In July 2012, they did receive an equity adjustment of 1 percent, which was originally negotiated in the fall of 2008. In January 2013, firefighters also obtained the third-year 2.5-percent raise as stipulated in the 2008 contract.
The new contract also contains several sections that council removed from the city’s codified ordinances, stating that they were now redundant.
In addition, the agreement calls for an employee contribution to health care coverage of 14 percent for 2014, and 15 percent for the next two years. Vision coverage is offered on a voluntary basis.
Ordinance sponsor John Shepherd commented that the contract was “fair and good for the city and the (firefighters) association.” While other council members expressed the desire for more time to study the lengthy agreement, they agreed that it was best to approve the measure before the end of the year.
Fire Chief Chris Flynn said that while no one was “deliriously happy” about the contract, he agreed that it was “solid and fair.”