Falls approves deal with firefighters for slight raises - The Buffalo News

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Falls approves deal with firefighters for slight raises

NIAGARA FALLS – The city and its firefighters union have struck a deal on a new four-year labor contract that provides “modest” raises.

The agreement, approved by a 4-0 vote of the City Council this week, covers a period from 2010 through 2013. Members of Local 714, Uniformed Firefighters Association, have been working under the terms of a deal that expired at the end of 2009.

The new deal calls for raises throughout the term: 1.5 percent effective July 1, 2010; 1.5 percent effective Dec. 31, 2010; 1.5 percent in 2011; 2 percent in 2012; 1 percent effective July 1, 2013; and 1 percent effective Dec. 31 of this year.

A tentative agreement was approved by the union in the second week of this month.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said he believes the wage increases are modest and reasonable, and were numbers the city wanted to achieve in negotiations.

The pay increases prevent employees from seeing diminished buying power by keeping pace with inflation, Dyster said.

The union got a “good result,” said President Jason Cafarella, which he described as “in line” with other city unions.

While they would have preferred a longer term, the union understands the city has a structural deficit and “definitely wants to be a part of the solution for the city.”

As part of the negotiations, the union agreed to drop a grievance challenging a city action that started in 2010 to make all new firefighters pay 5 percent toward health insurance costs, Cafarella said.

The city has been trying to get agreements with all of its unions on the same schedule in order to begin working on a cooperative effort to come up with cost-savings proposals regarding health insurance, Dyster said.

Having all the union contracts on the same timetable would allow the city to convene the health care committee, written into all union contracts, to deal with the issue, which is a major financial pressure on the city, he said.

The contract also includes modifications to some work rules, as well as increases in compensation for fire investigators.

The city’s negotiating team was Deputy Corporation Counsel Christopher M. Mazur and Rick Rotella, a former Law Department employee who negotiated contracts for the city and is now a private attorney and employed as a consultant by the city.

The Council also approved an agreement with the union that defers an increase in the minimum staffing levels – something required as part of an arbitration award in the late 1990s – for five years. If that requirement were to have gone into effect, the city would have had to hire about eight new firefighters, Mazur said.

Cafarella called the agreement to defer minimum staffing “a gesture of good faith on our part.”

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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