Firefighters Expired Contract makes Issues with survey, closings , narcan, and political endorsements more Interesting!

LOWELL

The current Lowell Firefighters contract expired on June 30th and with the city undertaking a “complete review” of the entire operation , plus the issue of closing 2 and sometimes (like when the Manager is trying to balance his budget) 3 stations, there should be many sticking points before a new contract is reached.

Don’t forget the rank and file isn’t to happy with the Manager for taking the Chief’s position out of Civil service or the way he handled the entire talk over the overtime cost and rank and file employees being out sick or injured.

Many recall the earlier evaluation done on the fire dept. by the city of Lowell (see earlier post) and how the City chose to ignore many of the recommendations received from the people who conducted and submitted it. Why spend the money if you are going to ignore what the “professionals” recommend?

This report will be more public with the local media and bloggers making sure the report is public and posted but you have to wonder if this will also be ignored?

The City hasn’t said what the cost of the report will be or where the money is coming from to conduct it, or when it will begin since bids were due last week. I’m sure that question will be asked and answered.

Interesting to note that the Lowell Police are now carrying Narcan and has they tweeted yesterday:

Lowell Police use Narcan -LPD uses Narcan, a drug that reverses effects of opioid overdose, to save the life of a homeless man who overdosed Sunday evening it was 1st time LPD used Narcan which was provided by MA Dept. of Pub. Health. All officers were trained on its use in past several months

The city seems to be looking for a way to reduce the need for an engine or ladder to respond to every call. In the RFQ posted yesterday it shows that pretty clearly:

Review current and future demand for fire services including EMS, including the potential of providing responses in vehicles other than current fire apparatus.

According to a Sun report from 2014 the firefighters received a 6.5% raise spread over three years along with a 1 time .5 percent increase to their base pay in their last contract.

The City Council on Tuesday night approved, by an 8-1 vote, a new contract the city reached with its firefighters’ union covering the period of July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015.

The pact called for union members to receive a 1.5 percent pay increase in fiscal 2013, a 2.5 percent pay increase in the current fiscal year, and a 2.5 percent pay increase in fiscal 2015, which begins July 1.

In order to fund retroactive payments under the contract, the council voted to establish a Salary Reserve Stabilization Fund and to transfer $950,000 from the general stabilization fund into the reserve.

The council then voted to transfer $400,000 from its new reserve into the Fire Department’s salary and wage account and also transferred another $500,000 from various other accounts to the same salary and wage account.

The firefighters’ union, Local 853, agreed to some concessions as part of the contract.

New union members will no longer to be able to buy back a percentage of their accumulated sick leave or buy back five sick days per year.

The union also agreed to changes governing employees who are injured while on duty.

Police officers and firefighters found to be injured in the line of duty are allowed by state law Chapter 41, Section 111F, to collect their salaries free of all taxes until their recuperation is complete and they return to work.

Under the new agreement, while a firefighter is receiving 111F benefits, he or she will no longer be able to accrue time for sick leave or vacation.

Firefighters out on 111F also may be required to perform “light duty” on a full-time or part-time basis if supported by a physician and there are light duty tasks available the member could perform.

Members will receive a one-time .5 percent increase to their base pay as a result of the 111F amendments, which will become effective July 1.

The HAZMAT and EMT stipends will be increased by .25 percent under the contract.

Mayor Rodney Elliott was the lone vote in opposition to the contract. He voted against prior union contracts with similar pay increases and said he wanted to remain consistent.

That should make any talk of raises ,the issue of closing companies, the RFQ looking at the entire Fire Dept organization and endorsements for this year’s election all the more interesting.

Combined with the open contract of the UTL and Local 1705 the City Manager (and has a result, this sitting City Council) is facing a much tougher period than he did in his first year.

The timing with the City Elections for Council and School Committee in November also puts pressure on those incumbents and challengers seeking union endorsements.

Maybe the Election Season will be more livelier than I first thought!

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