FIREFIGHTERS HAMMER OUT NEW CONTRACT WITH CITY. COUNCIL SET APPROVE PARITY WITH POLICE ON WAGES, RANDOM DRUG TESTING, 100% HEALTH CARE FOR THOSE HIRED BEFORE July 1, 1995

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WPCNR QUILL & EYESHADE.By John F. Bailey  March 4, 2017 UPDATED  11:30 PM E.S.T. WITH STATEMENT FROM CITY HALL WITH DETAILS(IN BOLD ITALICS TYPE) UPDATED SUNDAY MARCH 4, 11:08 A.M.:

The White Plains Professional Firefighters Union # 274, without a contract for 1 year and 8 months, John Callahan, Corporation Counsel for the City of White Plains confirms to WPCNR, the firefighters union membership approved a new  contract Thursday evening.

The firefighters, if the Common Council ratifies the contract at the Monday evening will have won retroactive wage increases of 2% for 2015-16, 2-1/4% in 2016-17, and a 2-1/2% wage increase in 2017-2018 achieving parity with the police department.

According to the agreement, those hired on or after July 1, 2015 will receive in addition to their salary, longevity payments of 3% plus $350 after 10 years of service in the force, and 4% plus $350 after 15 years payment beginning July 1st each year following when the firefighter becomes eligble.

John Callahan, White Plains Chief of Staff and Corporation Counsel, furnished this written statement to WPCNR Saturday evening:

” I would like to offer some additions/clarifications/corrections to the
article currently posted on the WPCNR website regarding the collective
bargaining agreement between the City of White Plains and the
Professional Firefighters Association, Inc, Local 274, I.A.F.F.,
A.F.L.-C.I.O. (“PFFA”).

The city was notified by the PFFA’s attorney on Thursday evening that
the union had approved the proposed collective bargaining agreement.
The agreement will be voted on this Monday evening by the Common
Council.

If the Council approves the agreement, only those pre-1995 employees
who retire subsequent to the Council approving the agreement will
receive increased health insurance benefits in retirement. 

These increased benefits will be  made possible because of savings that will be realized by a new pay plan that will go into effect for all employees covered under the agreement who are hired after the Council approves the agreement. Each of our large bargaining units (PBA, Teamsters, CSEA and PFFA) have now agreed to new pay plans for newly hired employees.

Your article indicates that challenges to the ordinance requiring
certain retirees to contribute towards the cost of their health
insurance have been successful. That is not the case.  

In every forum where these challenges have been brought and where a final determination has been made, the requirement for a retiree contribution towards  health insurance coverage has been upheld.  A specific challenge you mention, initially brought by attorney Albert Pirro, is still pending in federal court.

That case has not yet been decided.

Thank you for the opportunity to expand and correct the record.

Mr. Callahan said the case is now in “Motion Practice,” Also, please be advised that Joseph Maria is representing  the plaintiffs in the current federal court proceeding.  He is not representing the city.  The city is being represented by the law firms Lamb and Barnowsky, and Wilson Elser. 

(WPCNR thanks Mr. Callahan for his contributing this clarification.)

Callahan, in addition said that 12 new firefighters will be hired under the terms of the new contract (to be up for Common Council ratification Monday evening) which creates a new wage scale for incoming firefighters.

In two other significant changes in the contract up for ratification–

The White Plains Firefighters  agreed to the new city policy of random drug testing for possible use of controlled substances (including marijuana) as defined by Section 220(5) of New York Penal Law, and marijuana, as it is defined in Section 220(6).

Not every firefighter will be tested, since selection of who is tested will be determined by computer. There is no indication in the material outlining the drug testing of whether management can test a firefighter on suspicion of drug use.

As the Police won back 100% Health Care benefits  for retired and retiring officers hired before July 1, 1995, the firefighters already retired will receive this benefit back in their new contract if the Common Council ratifies the contract. The police won this restoration of full benefits to pre 1995 retirees,  after suing the city over the city policy of requiring those retirees to pay 15% of their health care and had it written into their new contract through 2018(now in effect). Albert Pirro took that police case that is still pending, as Callahan explains.

However the city has proceeded as Callahan indicates to put the full 100% payment of health benefits for those joining the police force before July 1, 1995, into the new police contract running through June 30, 2018.

The new fire contract for Council consideration  is retroactive to July 1, 2015 and expires in 15 months. So all unions, WPCNR believes will be back in negotiations a year from now.

Union Officials have been contacted for comment.

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