Hoping to stop the revolving door at the Liberty Twp. Fire Department, trustees ratified a new union contract that includes 4 percent pay hikes totalling about $114,000 annually.
The new three-year deal also includes step increases based on years of service. Starting pay for a firefighter/paramedic, according to the contract, is $58,099. The first step takes the pay up to $60,995 after a year, and someone on staff for seven years will be earning $70,753, not including the annual raises.
Under the previous contract, which went to state fact finding because a deal couldn’t be reached, the annual raises were 2 percent. Trustee Tom Farrell said officials knew when they worked to pass a levy two years ago, they needed to address the wage issue.
“The contract renewal was obviously part of that master plan, we knew it before, we knew it going in and staying competitive but still being frugal was our main goal,” Farrell said. “And I believe this contract does both.”
Union president Jeff Heintz said in the past year-and-a-half Liberty Twp. has lost four firefighter/paramedics to other departments — two to Fairfield, one to West Chester Twp. and one to Madeira-Indian Hill — because of the pay. He said he compared union contracts of other townships, and it was clear Liberty Twp. needed to do something.
“The average was 3 percent,” he said. “But the reality is all those departments were making $5,000 to $10,000 more a year than we were. So a 3 percent for us is not necessarily equal to another township, say West Chester. It had to do with being more competitive and to feel more valued.”
Heintz said the negotiation process was much different this time as well. He said it cost the union $15,000 to $20,000 last time because the two sides couldn’t agree and it went to a state mediator. This time they used the free state service known as “Interest Based Bargaining.” Other than the one-day training by the facilitator it only took four meetings for the two sides to come to terms. He said the third party facilitator “helped steer them in the way of what’s reality.”
Trustee Christine Matacic said she is also satisfied with the new deal, she said they don’t want to be the top or the bottom salary-wise but they need to be competitive and she believes this deal gets the township there.
“When you have four meetings and you can sit there and negotiate and figure it all out and save all that time and effort and money,” she said. “There’s a lot of side benefits you have with employee morale and the working relationship that is a great thing to have.”
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