Middletown City Council has unanimously rejected a fact-finders report in its contract negotiations with its fire union.
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The city and the Middletown Firefighters Association, Local 336, International Association of Fire Fighters, have been in negotiations for a new contract as the previous three-year contract expired on Dec. 31, 2017. All but three articles in the contract have been agreed to by both parties and a fact-finding hearing was held on April 30. Those contract issues concern insurance, promotions within rank, and wages.
The union represents 74 members including firefighters, fire lieutenants, fire captains and deputy fire chiefs. The fire chief and assistant fire chief are excluded.
Susan Cohen, city general counsel, declined to comment on report. She said the next step would be conciliation which is binding arbitration to resolve unsettled contract issues.
Fire union officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Here is a break-down of the issues and the fact-finder’s recommendations which were issued May 14:
City officials proposed removing the language in the agreement that provided for caps for bargaining unit member costs because it gave the union and a police bargaining unit richer benefit options that created dispartity among other city employees. The city said by removing the caps, its Health Care Committee can pursue benefits of equal value for all employees.
The union proposed increasing the caps to its employee health care costs, but was opposed to the elimination of all caps on insurance benefits. The union also proposed an opt-out incentive stipend, saying this would assist the city in off-setting insurance costs.
The fact-finder: Recommended removal of all caps; and recommended new language to allow city or union to stop participation in the Health Care Committee by providing written notice. If participation is ended, members would be required to maintain their health care coverage; and it would also allow re-opening insurance negotiations.
city proposed language requiring apparatus operator applicants to be at minimum Step D on the pay scale as the position requires an experienced and an effective firefighter with demonstrated skills.
The union proposed compensation for a Squadman position be increased from $26 to $36 an hour as promotion to that rank is no longer applicable. The union proposal is to make the additional compensation to a flat 7 percent to reflect the reality within the work force.
The fact-finder: Recommended increasing the compensation for a Squadman to 28.50 an hour; and to be eligible for promotion to apparatus operator, the employee must have obtained Step D nn the pay scale.
The city has proposed a 2 percent increase.
The union is seeking a 4 percent increase for each year of the contract to attract and retain employees and stem the high turnover rate. The union also opposed any step adjustments.
The fact-finder recommended wage increases in this order:
Effective Jan. 1, 2018, a 2 percent increase; and a 0.66 percent increase on July 1. There would also be 2 percent increases on Jan. 1 in 2019 and 2020. In addition, the fact-finder did not recommend the salary structure modifications proposed by the city in these negotiations.