Weymouth Firefighters Win Arbitration Award But Town Is Unsure How To Afford It
An arbitrator revealed great news for Weymouth, Massachusetts firefighters seeking a pay increase. However, the Mayor of Weymouth, Sue Kay, is not as pleased with the award given, as she attempts to determine how the town will cover the cost of the pay hike. She has also brought members of the firefighters union and town officials to task for allowing negotiations over contracts to result in the necessity for arbitration in the first place.
According to the decision, Weymouth firefighters will receive retroactive 2.5% raises for last year and 2.5% raises for this year. This award was slightly different than the town’s proposed solution, which was 2.5% last year and 1% this year. However, the union was requesting quite a bit more in their negotiations: a 4% raise in 2011, a 3% raise in 2012 and a 4% raise in 2013.
In the process of their decision making, the three arbitrators on the panel commented of the bitter relationship town hall and the union that was evident in the proceedings. Here is how their final decision was written: “The extensive and combative arguments presented to the panel in this case illustrate the extreme ill-toned and hard-nosed relationship between the Union and the Town. The firefighters feel put upon and the Town feels ripped off. Nothing this panel can say or do is going to repair the damage to this relationship, except by calling attention to it and suggesting that both sides ease up.”
As for the town’s ability to pay the pay hikes, the mayor has said that the cost of the arbitrators’ decision will be, at the very least, $500,000—although it could be higher. These amounts will be given to the firefighters in a single payment. “What we offered was what we could afford,” said the Mayor. “...I have to support the award, legally. We went to arbitration because we could not come to an agreement, and that’s what the arbitrators came up with.”