After months of deliberation, city officials and the Baltimore City Fire Department announced an agreement for a new contract that will increase firefighters’ pay by 16.5 percent.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the new contract on Aug. 20. The agreement was approved by members of the Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734 and the Baltimore Fire Officers Association IAFF Local 964 unions and will go into effect in January.
“This new contract—with a new schedule and significantly increased pay—will allow our fire department to maintain its high standard of emergency services for our city,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “I am appreciative that the members of the department acknowledge the importance of long-term fiscal stability for our city and have courageously voted to make changes that will benefit all.”
Responding to the contract, one local firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous said, “it’s been a long-time coming.”
In an interview with the AFRO, the firefighter—who is stationed at a West Baltimore firehouse—said he has been with the department for nearly eight years. He said that in early August, a representative from one of the fire unions posted unofficial letters around firehouses notifying firefighters of the increase.
“There are a lot of mixed feelings regarding the pay increases,” he said. “Within the past five years we received one to two percent pay increases each year and in some cases there weren’t any increases at all.”
He said everyone in the fire department was furloughed at some point over the last two years—resulting in a decrease in pay that seemed significant to some.
In a statement, Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey R. Segal said “the contract is the result of good-faith negotiations between city officials, fire department management and union leadership.”
Under the new three-year contract, fire department employees will receive a two percent increase for the 2013 fiscal year, retroactive to July 1 raise.
The west Baltimore firefighter said he is looking forward to the increase; however he said he isn’t “looking forward to the new schedule they are forcing on us.”
Along with the salary increase, the new contract requires that all fire suppression personnel alter their shifts. The new shift will require they remain on duty for 24 hours, off duty for the next 24 hours and on duty for the following 24 hours.
“These changes will save the city millions of dollars and prevent possible layoffs,” Segal said.
Although layoffs won’t occur, firefighters are working harder and more, according to the firefighter. He said, “people are just so hungry for money and hungry for raises, that it seems okay.”
He said, “the city is basically paying us what they already owed us.”
Additionally, he said fire personnel will have to contribute more into their pension plan and the cost of their health benefits have increased.
Michael Campbell, president of Baltimore Fire Officers Association IAFF Local 964 said in a statement, “the officers in suppression are finally getting the raise they deserve.”
The new contract supports the mayor’s 10-year financial plan for Baltimore in an effort to tackle the city’s $750 million structural deficit.