Firefighters Get New Contract from New Philadelphia Council

The contract ends in December 2021. Firefighters will receive a 1% pay raise this year, 2% in 2020 and 2% in 2021. The contract reduces the number of firefighters who can take off per shift from four to two.

by Jon Baker, The Times-Reporter, New Philadelphia, Ohio / August 14, 2019

(TNS) — The New Philadelphia, Ohio, Council approved a new three-year contract with New Philadelphia firefighters on Monday that city officials say will help address the problem of high overtime costs for the fire department.

The contract runs from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021. Firefighters will receive a 1-percent pay raise this year, 2 percent in 2020 and 2 percent in 2021. The contract also reduces the number of firefighters who can take off per shift using vacation or comp time from four to two.

"It really contributed to the overtime situation that we've been battling," Mayor Joel Day said.

The agreement also increases minimum manning from five to six firefighters, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

The contract was recently approved by members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1501 by a 12-9 vote.

In 2018, council accepted a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for $879,542 from the federal Emergency Management Agency to hire six more firefighter/paramedics to improve staffing levels and reduce overtime.

Fire department overtime has cost the city between $400,000 and $500,000 in recent years.

"Because of the SAFER firefighters, overtime is lowering considerably," Day said. "It is working."

Council approved the contract by a 6-1 vote, with Councilwoman Cheryl Ramos casting the sole "No" vote.

Before the vote was taken, she noted that a consultant service had told city officials last year that New Philadelphia's overtime rate of 195 percent was an expensive option.

"This contract, instead of addressing some of the problems, the minimum manning was increased and the overtime rate was not addressed, nor the staffing on the ambulance," she said.

Councilman John Zucal spoke in favor of the agreement.

"Negotiations are in fact what they are," he said. "It's trying to find a happy medium between two entities who come to the table with different interests and different concerns."

He applauded the efforts of the union and the city's negotiating team in reaching an agreement.

"I believe we as a council took the first step toward controlling overtime," he said. But he added that when someone places a call for fire or ambulance service, they want the best trained and the best individuals responding. "Really, you can't put a cost on that."

Reach Jon at 330-364-8415 or at jon.baker@timesreporter.com.

On Twitter: @jbakerTR

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