NORTH RIDGEVILLE — City Council voted to approve a new two-year contract that will grant the city’s firefighters raises for this year and 2014 and up the share they pay for medical insurance.
The pact covers 2013 retroactively to the start of the year as negotiators for Local 2129 of the International Association of Firefighters have been bargaining with the city since October 2012.
Under terms of the contract, which Council approved unanimously, 6-0 — Nancy Buescher, R-1st Ward, was absent — firefighters will receive a 4 percent raise for this year and a 2 percent increase in pay for 2014.
Base pay will stand at $58,080 for 2013 and rise to $59,241 next year.
Firefighters with three to five years’ experience currently earn about $57,000 a year.
The union represents 34 firefighters, who voted 27-6 to accept the two-year deal, according to Mayor David Gillock.
Firefighters had been without a contract since the end of 2012.
Firefighters also agreed to shoulder a slightlt larger percentage of the monthly costs of their medical insurance, which will rise from the current 10 percent to 12.5 percent starting in January.
Another major provision of the contract agreed to by the union calls for a reduction in the maximum number of hours that can be paid for accrued sick time from 1,500 to 1,200.
“This was a good-faith step by the firefighters,” Crites said.
The provision also allows a firefighter to cash in unused sick time if he or she leaves the city’s employment after 10 years of service, but anyone who is dismissed from their position for cause will forfeit all banked sick time.
“In the past someone could be fired for cause and still collect,” Crites said of the change. “This really speaks to the integrity of our firefighters.”
Negotiations had deadlocked over a proposed three-year contract when City Council sided earlier with a factfinder over proposed salary increases and other issues.
The dispute was on the verge of being decided by an arbitrator when both sides finally came to a tentative agreement last week.
Crites termed the contract “a fair deal that’s in line with public sector practices these days. Every municipality is being asked to do more with less overall.”
Resolution of the contract helps set the stage for talks between the city and its other two principal unions.
The current three-year contract with police contains a re-opener clause for talks over wages for 2014, and the union representing the department initiated discussion with the city about six weeks ago, Crites said.
The city recently began talks with its local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents, which represents city hall and service department workers, according to Crites.
The current AFSCME contract expires Dec. 31.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.