Approved fire contract cuts salaries 10-18%

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — The city’s fire department union ratified a contract that calls for across-the-board pay cuts of between 10 and 18 percent while maintaining staffing levels.

The agreement, that went into effect July 1, also reduces pension contributions and holiday pay.

“We have negotiated, not imposed, an agreement which provides real structural change that saves the city money and still helps us maintain a certain level of fire service delivery,” Emergency Manager Joyce Parker said. “While this was a difficult agreement to reach, it is one that was done cooperatively and reflects the city’s fiscal struggles.”

The Police Department saw similar reductions July 1, due to an implementation order because the police union has not reached any agreement with the city.

As part of the fire agreement, Parker said, the city can use volunteer and part-time firefighters, which will reduce overtime costs that previously cost the city $500,000 a year. The changes made will save the city a combined $1.8 million in operational costs for both departments.

Parker said some firefighters will see a pay reduction of about 18 percent due to the immediate 10 percent pay cut and the elimination of the 7 percent premium for paramedic pay.

Holiday pay, healthcare, and pensions saw changes under the new agreement, as well. Holiday pay will be reduced to seven days a year, then after two years, it will decrease again to five days a year where it will stay. This change, Parker said, will save the city about 3 percent in operation costs.

Healthcare has been changed to include deductibles — up to $2,500 — being paid out-of-pocket by the employee, but will include better coverage. There will be higher co-pays involved and members will be required to pay 20 percent in premiums, which could cost an additional $3,400 to the firefighters.

The minimum requirements to receive retiree healthcare was increased. To become eligible for retiree healthcare, current firefighters must have 15 years of service, an increase over the previous requirement of 10 years, and the new minimum retirement age is 52.

“These changes will save the city money in the future and will provide a significant reduction to and slow the growth of the unfunded retiree healthcare,” she said.

Also, the pension multiplier has been reduced to 2.5 percent, from 2.9 percent, and new hires will receive a 2 percent pension multiplier.

New hires’ eligibility for retirement has also been changed. Parker said the new hires will not receive retirement benefits until the age of 55 and after 25 years of service. The pension multiplier will be based solely on the first-year pay of the employee.

During the July 9 city council meeting, Parker said the cuts were the first step in providing better services to residents, while saving the city money. She said the changes were made to compliment the proposed police and fire millage; but, if the millage is voted down there will be more cuts within the Fire Department.

Under the new budget, the Police and Fire departments operate under a $7.9 million budget, which comes out of the city’s general fund. The proposed millage would raise $4.6 million to be used specifically for police and fire operations and subsequently free up money in the general fund.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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