West Chester, fire union reach new deal aided by fire levy passage

West Chester Twp. trustees and their fire union have sealed a new three-year deal for a total cost of $2.1 million including benefits.

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West Chester Twp. trustees and their fire union have sealed a new three-year deal for a total cost of $2.1 million including benefits.

The West Chester Twp. fire union agreed to a fairly standard new three-year deal with the trustees that will cost a total of $2.1 million.

The trustees approved the new contract Tuesday that includes 3% raises in the first two years and 2.75% in the last, which mirrors percent increases in the police contract that was ratified in 2019. The total contract cost is $2.1 million including raises, step increases and benefits. The step increases would have been given with or without the new deal.

Assistant Administrator Lisa Brown noted the raises bring the pay slightly above other fire departments in the region.

“This ensures West Chester attracts top candidates,” Brown wrote in her report to the trustees.

Voters in November approved new 2-mill levies for both fire and police that will generate about $5 million for each department.

Fire Union President Jeff Moore called the new contract “status quo.”

“Even on the heels of the fire levy just passing we weren’t looking to do anything to much out of the box to upset the apple cart,” Moore said. “We were just looking for something reasonable that both sides could live with.”

ExploreWest Chester Twp. approves raises for non-union employees

Brown, who was part of the negotiating team for the township, outlined some of the substantive changes in the contract:

  • Vacation time: The township increased the number of weeks employees can roll over from one year to another from one to two weeks. New hires will get service credit for service with another local government fire department in vacation accrual. Employees who are fired for insubordination, falsifying employer records, theft, mistreatment of member of the public or other Employees, or immorality will not receive a vacation payout.
  • Health insurance: The premium paid by employees who choose the highest plan will increase to 17% increase if other non-union employees also experience the contribution hike. The stipulation to offer union employees the same health insurance benefits as non-union employees was removed.
  • Overtime: Overtime will now be offered in 12-hour increments or hour for hour for any shift under 12 hours. Previously, overtime shifts had to be offered in 24-hour and 12-hour shifts.
  • Uniform allowance: Employees will receive an annual $500 uniform allowance with an approved vendor so they can order replacements when necessary. Employees will not receive a cash payment for unused balances and the unused funds cannot be carried over from one year to the next.

Moore told the Journal-News the vacation rollover increase was particularly important, especially after last year.

“One of the biggest things that happened, and the township was already doing it, was that we solidified rolling over more vacation time,” Moore said. “Because this last year 2020 was a nightmare. We’ve kept staffing up and on the flip side not everybody took their vacation time.”

The trustees passed the contract unanimously. Trustee Ann Becker said the department improves with each contract they ratify.

“When we step into these negotiations it’s always interesting to see the solutions that come out them,” Becker said. “There are a few changes in here that improve the quality of work for our firefighters and the relationship with administration, the union and the fire department.”

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