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Fire union, twp. agree to contract



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November 17, 2010 - Oxford's 12 union firefighters got something last week they've never had before – their very first labor agreement.

"We thought the process went very smoothly," said Firefighter Kevin Snell, who serves as president of the Oxford Fire Fighters Union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4763. "We feel that both sides got a very fair contract in the end."

On Friday morning, the township board voted 6-1 to approve the two-year union contract.

"I think it's a very good first contract," said Trustee Mike Spisz, who was part of the negotiating team. "I think we made some improvements from the township's perspective on the financial end and the union members got what they were looking for on their end, so I think it's a win-win."

Treasurer Joe Ferrari cast the lone dissenting vote because he felt it wasn't conservative enough given the uncertain state of the economy and declining property values.

"I just wasn't comfortable that with our taxable value, as much as it's been declining, if we're going to have enough to basically meet all the demands of the contract," he said. "I wanted to make sure we took more of a conservative approach."

Although one ballot had not yet been counted to Snell on Friday afternoon, he indicated that 11 out of the 12 union firefighters voted in favor of the contract.

Contract negotiations began in April and ended Monday, Nov. 8 with a tentative agreement, according to Spisz.

According to the contract, just for approving the labor agreement, each union firefighter will receive a $500 "ratification bonus," which amounts to a $6,000 expense for the department.

The firefighters did make some sacrifices under the new contract in terms of fringe benefits. Right now, they don't contribute anything toward their health, dental and vision insurance.

Under the new contract, each employee will contribute 2.5 percent of the premium cost beginning Jan. 1, 2011 and 5 percent starting Jan. 1, 2012.

"We are absolutely fine with that," Snell "We are absolutely fine with that," Snell said. "We agree sharing in the cost of those items is important because of the economic times. Just because we're firemen doesn't make us better than anybody else."

In terms of their retirement, the union firefighters will go from contributing nothing to 2.5 percent of their gross wages to offset the cost. That amount will be deducted from their paychecks.

As far as wages go, the only union firefighter who will receive a pay raise next year is the lieutenant fire inspector. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, his hourly rate will increase from $19.82 to $22.80.

Snell explained the reason for the raise is the fire inspector is being made a full-time lieutenant. "Obviously, when you get the extra level of responsibilities, you have to get the pay to go with it," he said. "He's making $19.82 an hour. He's making firefighter/medic pay."

In January 2012, the inspector's pay will increase to $23.18 per hour as will the lieutenant EMS coordinator's pay, which will go from $25.34 to $25.72 per hour. As with the fire inspector, the EMS coordinator's raise is based on the promotion to lieutenant, according to Snell.

"With the officer title and the responsibility, comes additional pay," he said.

The rest of the union firefighters' wages will again remain the same in 2012.

"We understand the economy right now and the financial issues the township obviously is facing, so we weren't looking for a whole lot of gain on this," Snell said. "Obviously, our biggest goal was status quo."

The contract does call for the creation of three new officers' positions, which will be known as "shift sergeants." Each of these three employees will earn $20.82 per hour (or $60,627 annually) under the labor agreement.

The department will not hire additional employees to fill the shift sergeant positions. They will be filled by promoting existing employees who must first undergo a testing process.

Snell indicated it was the fire chief who suggested the shift sergeants.

"That was something we accepted, but that was his choice to create those," he said.

According to Fire Chief Pete Scholz, these new positions give the department an extra command officer for those times when he and the other officers are attending meetings or out on a call.

The department will not be hiring additional employees to fill the shift sergeant positions. They will be filled by promoting existing employees who must first undergo a testing process.

Snell indicated it was the fire chief who suggested the shift sergeants.

"That was something we accepted, but that was his choice to create those," he said.

According to Fire Chief Pete Scholz, these new positions give the department an extra command officer for those times when he and the other officers are attending meetings or out on a call.

"Most of the other departments do the exact same thing," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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