June 12, 2002

Eyes on the Contract

Firefighters union studies city pact with teachers

By William Murphy STAFF WRITER

Me too.

That was what the city firefighters union was saying less than 24 hours after the city and teachers union announced a proposed $1.4 billion, 30-month contract.

The Uniform Firefighters Association, whose members have been seeking a contract for more than 18 months, suggested yesterday that federal funds promised after Sept. 11 could be used for pay raises, just as money from the state was used to boost teacher salaries.

Union president Keven Gallagher said he was looking for "similar considerations for our members" after teachers were offered a contract calling for a 16-percent wage increase.

Gallagher and other union leaders agreed last August to a 30-month contract with two five-percent pay raises.

But the union decided not to put the contract out for a ratification vote after Sept. 11, when 343 firefighters were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The city has declined to say whether it would press the union leadership to accept the contract it had promised to recommend to its 8,500 members.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is in arbitration with the city but is using state rules for the first time.

A ruling from the arbitrators is expected by late summer.

PBA negotiator Robert Linn said the teachers settlement was in a large part a reaction to the higher salaries earned by teachers in surrounding suburbs.

He said the union would proceed as planned with its arbitration, but said the teachers' pact showed the need for "a substantial market adjustment" in the salaries of city police officers because of the higher salaries of officers in the suburbs.

Gallagher said in his statement that in addition to reviewing the teachers' pact, his union would "await the PBA results" before exploring options.

Gallagher is retiring this summer and it is likely that a new and untested leadership will make that decision.

All the rest of the city's major unions are under contract, although police sergeants and a few smaller unions are still working under expired contracts.