West Chester trustees approve fire contract with raises, new gear

West Chester Twp. firefighters will get a 3 percent pay hike, more life insurance and an extra set of turnout gear as part of a new three-year contract.

The firefighters and management negotiated a scant two months before reaching a deal that provides a 3 percent, across-the-board pay bump in each of the three years of the deal — they didn’t receive raises in the last contract — an increase in life insurance coverage from $40,000 to $50,000 and a $500 increase to $2,000 for the incentive employees receive if they use their spouse’s instead of township health insurance.

RELATED: West Chester adds part-time firefighters

Trustee Mark Welch praised the firefighters and management for “hammering out this agreement with great alacrity.”

“It is an excellent agreement that we have today,” Welch said. “Also because the speed by which they were able to come to an agreement, it saves the township a lot of legal fees.”

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Interim Administrator Larry Fronk said the new firefighters’ deal is in line with the police contract that was settled last summer. That negotiation did not go as smoothly.

RELATED: West Chester trustees displeased with new police contract

Because police cannot strike, when contract talks reach an impasse and fact-finder’s recommendations aren’t agreed upon, the contract goes to a conciliator for the final decision. A conciliator decided the police are underpaid compared to some of their peers in other communities and the township was too conservative in its revenue projections.

The officers’ union contract provided a $1,000 addition to base pay, plus a 2.5 percent increase retroactive to 2016 and 3 percent hikes in 2017 and this year. The sergeants and lieutenants got a 4 percent raise retroactive to last year and a 3 percent raise in 2017 and 2018.

The new fire union contract also includes a provision for firefighters to get a second set of turnout gear which could be a life saver, according to Trustee Ann Becker.

“When the firemen go on a run, their suits get soiled with carbon, their suits get carcinogens there’s a lot of things that happen in the suit,” Becker said. “What they’ve learned over time is there is a higher risk for cancer for firefighters being encased in who knows what. So we are giving our guys a second suit, so if they do go on a run in their shift they have a second one to change into.”

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