Rockland OKs contract with firefighters, EMTs

Posted July 24, 2012, at 1:07 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland City Council gave unanimous approval Monday night to a three-year contract with its firefighters and emergency medical technicians that gained concessions from employees on health insurance.

The contract provides cost-of-living raises for 12 firefighters. The three EMTs-paramedics covered under the labor pact will receive greater raises to help bring them closer to the average pay for similar workers, according to City Manager James Smith.

As part of the agreement, the employees agreed to pay a greater share of their health insurance premiums.

Also Monday, the council gave unanimous preliminary approval to amending a city ordinance that had specified the percentage share of health insurance coverage for employees. The current city law requires that the city pay 85 percent of premiums and the employees 15 percent. The change given initial approval Monday night allows the council to set that percentage each year through negotiations.

Under the new contract with firefighters and EMTs, that percentage will be shifted so that by the third year of the contract (2014-2015) the employees will be paying 20 percent of premiums.

Councilors praised the agreement and thanked the city manager and firefighters union for the quick settlement. The previous contract had expired July 1.

“We’ve been seeing a tight economy for a number of years and declining state and federal money. At the same time we have seen in the private sector as well significant increases in health care costs. This agreement appropriately compensates people who take a significant risk for the public while balancing the costs to taxpayers,” City Councilor Larry Pritchett said.

Under the contract, firefighters will receive a 2.5 percent raise in 2012-2013, and 3 percent in each of the following two years.

The EMTs-paramedics will get a 7 percent raise in the first year, 5 percent in the second and 3 percent in the final year of the contract. Their base pay this year is $490 per week for a 42-hour week.

Firefighters’ base pay is $734 per week for a 56-hour week.

One other change in the contract is to eliminate the requirement that these employees live within eight miles of the fire station. The new language allows them to reside anywhere in Knox County.

Smith said the city is continuing negotiations with its other employees represented by unions. The Teamsters represents the other workers, such as police, public works and clerical employees.

The city manager said that nonunion workers will receive health insurance coverage and raises similar to that approved for firefighters. Those raises have yet to be given for nonunion workers but will be retroactive to July 1 when granted.

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