Arbitration in Hazelton Firefighter Contract Dispute Costs City Thousands
Friday, October, 23, 2015
Following an award to unionized firefighters in Hazelton that was equal to the same raises and benefits given in 2014, the city’s mayor criticized council members. The city is now forced to pay more than $7500 in legal fees for the arbitration process that resulted in exactly the same contract proposal originally rejected by the council. Essentially, the result was the same had the issue not gone to arbitration and the union contract approved by the council, except it is now costing the city several thousand more dollars.
The mayor called arbitration in this case a “… totally unnecessary and expensive step…” and pointed out the council could have just approved the proposal that was on the table. The final award was exactly the same as what was proposed by the International Association of Firefighters Union Local 507 in February and again in April.
The council had rejected the seven-year contract, stating it was concerned the city would have to pay a “Cadillac” tax once the ACA comes into effect for the firefighters in 2018.
The now-in-place contract contains a wage freeze in 2015, with raises of two percent in 2016 through 2018, and three percent raises in 2019 through 2021. The wage increase varies based on the firefighter’s experience, so those with more years of service will top out at a higher rate than those who are newer to the force.
Firefighters are also required to pay $260 per year toward their health insurance, which is $20 more than what they were paying under the previous contract.