The New York Times

March 3, 2007


Tentative Deal Struck With City Would Raise Pay for Firefighters

By RAY RIVERA

The Bloomberg administration and the city’s largest fire union have reached a tentative two-year contract that gives union members raises totaling 8.16 percent and increases pay for starting firefighters by nearly $10,000.

Reached late last evening, the deal could also set the pattern for negotiations with the city’s police union, which has been locked in a contract dispute with the city for months.

“This is a great example of a union coming to the table and making a good-faith effort to reach an agreement,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, announcing the tentative contract at a City Hall news conference last night. “When that happens, good things are going to happen, problems are going to be solved and needs are going to be addressed.”

The agreement, reached with the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents some 8,900 members, calls for raises of 4 percent on the first day of the contract and 4 percent on the first day of the contract’s second year.

It would also raise the base salary after five years on the job to $68,475, from the current $63,309. There would be additional longevity increases beyond that.

The agreement would be retroactive to last Aug. 1 and would run until July 31, 2008.

One of the highlights of the agreement is the increase in pay for starting firefighters to $35,000 from $25,100. That brings rookie firefighters nearly to the $36,878 they were paid before the last contract was reached in October 2005. That contract, which expired July 31, called for a reduction of nearly $12,000 as part of a package of concessions in exchange for raises.

Stephen J. Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said that the new agreement did not include any concessions for current firefighters but that there were “some minor glitches” for new recruits.

Among the concessions, new employees hired after April 1 would have six fewer paid holidays the first five years of service. Those same employees would see their night-differential pay — the difference between night-duty and day-duty pay — reduced by 50 percent during the first five years of service.

Despite those and other concessions, Mr. Cassidy said, the agreement represents “a significant raise for New York City firefighters.”

The deal, which would have to be ratified by the union members to take effect, also calls for a 12 percent pay differential for special assignment duty to Hazmat and rescue companies.

Mr. Cassidy said the union had been seeking an increase in pay for special assignment duty for more than 20 years.

The contract dispute between the city and the police union, meanwhile, is headed for arbitration.

Because union negotiations usually follow a pattern, arbitrators would probably look to the fire union’s deal as a model in ruling on a police contract.

“This deal establishes the parameters for all the uniformed unions in this round of bargaining,” said James F. Hanley, the city’s labor commissioner.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents about 23,000 police officers, offered the fire union congratulations for reaching the deal.

But he signaled that the police union would not agree to a similar deal.

“The F.D.N.Y. has not experienced the same defection of experienced personnel that the N.Y.P.D. has, nor have they had any problem recruiting new members,” Mr. Lynch said.

The latest round of negotiations between the city and the police union reached a stalemate last year after the union rejected a deal that would have increased pay for rookie police officers by about $10,000 from the current $25,100. The offer also would have raised the maximum base pay after five years of service to about $63,000 from $59,588.

“At the moment, the P.B.A. has not had any interest in sitting across the table and negotiating,” Mr. Bloomberg said last night. “We’ve made offers to the P.B.A. to increase starting salaries at roughly the same amount, and they were rejected out of hand.”

Mr. Bloomberg said he regretted that an arbitrator was needed to resolve the dispute with the police union.

“I’ve never thought you should turn things over to a third party,” he said. “When you do that, both sides lose.”

Other elements of the tentative deal reached with the firefighters’ union yesterday include an increase in the city’s contribution to the welfare fund for retirees by $80 a year for each retiree, and a $1,100 annual increase in the uniform allowance for fire marshals.

Mr. Bloomberg said that when everything was factored in, the total compensation increases added up to nearly 10 percent.

Steven Greenhouse contributed reporting.