City Struggles to Fund Fire Union Award

February 5, 2014
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The City will have to dip into the Rainy Day Fund to the tune of $1.65 million to pay a recently awarded contract settlement to the Revere Firefighter’s Union – a settlement that includes $2 million in retroactive pay and one that was far in excess of the City’s final offer.

The firefighters have been out of contract since 2010 – a carryover from former Mayor Tom Ambrosino’s administration. Mayor Dan Rizzo said he tried to pick up the pieces and forge a deal when he came into office, but it was a no-go.

Last year, the contract went to arbitration, and recently an arbiter from the state Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC) awarded the union a contract that contains a 13.25 percent pay increases over a five-year period. That includes retroactive pay of $2 million to fund the contract back to 2010.

“Yes, the money is available, but I will have to come back and request more money from the Free Cash in the Stabilization Fund,” he said. “There are about $2 million in retro payments…We can’t just bond it. It’s unfortunate. I don’t think there is a mayor or councillor who wants to go into the Rainy Day Fund for something like this…From time to time, and it’s unfortunate, but money has to come from somewhere. If it doesn’t come from there, it will have to come from the taxpayers.

“It’s the retro that really came up and hit us because they’ve been out of contract so long,” he continued. “It’s nothing the Council thought of and nothing that I thought of…If I could go back and recreate history, I would settle the contracts in 2010, but we can’t do that and we’re in fiscal year 2015.”

When asked by Councillor Brian Arrigo how much more the award was than what the City’s final offer was, Mayor Rizzo said it was a lot more.

“It was significantly greater than what we offered,” he said. “Things could have been much, much worse in our estimation.”

The JLMC divided the contract up in two parts, with five wage increases for five years. They received 4.25 percent in 2010, 0 percent in 2011, 1 percent in 2012, 2.5 percent in 2013, 1 percent later in 2013, and 4.5 percent in 2014.

That came to a total of 13.25 percent for the contract period.

Additionally, the firefighters got a $250 increase in their stipend for using NARCAN.

City Director of Finance George Anzuoni said the JLMC knew that the City would have to dip into its savings.

“We told them immediately that the first that the first thing we would have to do is dip into our Stabilization Fund,” he said. “That was one of the first things we mentioned. They understood that.”

He said taking the money out would leave the City with just under $3 million left in the account, which is about $300,000 less than when Mayor Rizzo took office. Rizzo had “parked” some $2.8 million of Free Cash from the state in the account last year.

Firefighters were in attendance at the meeting, including Union President Guy Landry. However, while firefighters were seeking to get quick approval of the award, they mostly stayed mute on the topic.

City Councillors, including Jessica Giannino and Charlie Patch, called for the award to be approved immediately.

“They are one of the lowest paid departments in the state,” said Giannino. “That’s a fact. It’s a number. You can look it up. I don’t think they should wait any longer…Everyone’s here right now.”

Added Patch, “We can’t change this judgment; the same as we couldn’t change the police award. They have waited since 2010.”

Several other councillors also called for an immediate approval, but Council President Tony Zambuto reminded everyone that – by ordinance – any appropriation over $5,000 has to be referred to committee for one week.

“This is an ordinance and we have to follow the rules and procedures up here,” he said, guaranteeing a quick meeting on Monday, Feb. 10.

Councillor Stephen Reardon agreed with waiting a week. “I think exposing this to our constituents is as important as getting it done,” he said.

Added Rizzo, “I think all things considered it comes out to 2.5 percent a year. I know the Fire Department would have liked more and the City would have liked less.”

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