City, fire union ink 4-year deal

June 27th, 2015 1:35 am

First Posted: 4/18/2013

The city and its firefighters inked a 4-year contract that has significant healthcare savings for the city and pay raises each year for the workers.

City council approved the contract with the Pittston City Fire Fighters Local 840 International Association of Fire Fighters Wednesday night. City Manager Joe Moskovitz negotiated the deal with George Tomasak, president of the union.

The firefighters union was the fourth and final city union to agree to Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania health plans that could save the city $300,000 over the terms of the contracts.

The police, clerical and public works unions also agreed to the new healthcare plans, but all four unions had to agree for the changes to be made.

The major concession by the unions allowed the city to drop the expensive high-end traditional Blue Cross plan. Two plans, the Blue Cross PPO and Blue Care HMO plans, are now the only ones offered.

“It’s a significant step in the right direction in terms of negotiating future contracts,” Moskovitz said. “Employees are going to have to pick up a larger share of the cost of their healthcare benefit.”

Moskovitz said, depending on the insurance premiums, the city could save $75,000 a year. In a return concession, the city agreed to 3 percent raises each year for the union firefighters.

“It’s in line with similar departmental contracts throughout the region with cities similar in size to ours with a unionized department,” Moskovitz said. “From the city’s perspective, there were concessions by both sides.”

The union represents six firefighters and one new one that will be hired. The department also has 17 part-time, non-unionized workers on the roster.

According to the contract, the base salary in 2013 is $47,910 and it increases each year by 3 percent, with the 2016 base salary at $52,353. If the city provides a higher wage increase to any other city union, the city will grant the same increase to firefighters.

Base salary for the new firefighter will be 70 percent of base salary for the first year, 80 percent the second year, 90 percent the third year and the maximum base salary the fourth year.

In addition to base salary, captains will receive $700 a year and assistant chiefs will receive $1,400. Iif a union member is also an EMT, he or she will receive an extra $800 a year. That’s up from $200 from the previous contract and is significantly higher because now a fire unit is responding to all medical calls.

Three fire inspectors will be added, with the wage premium set at 50 percent of each inspection fee.

All full-time firefighters will get 15 paid holidays and three paid personal days. Union members are also granted 10 paid school days for training, conferences and seminars.

A clothing allowance of $800 is provided in 2013 and it increases each year up to $875 in 2016.

“It’s a fair contract for both side,” Moskovitz said. The union president, George Tomasak, could not be reached for comment.