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Published: Thursday, 11/8/2012

Firefighters to get wage hikes of 5.25% next year, 2.5% year after

BY REBECCA CONKLIN KLEIBOEMER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Perrysburg will enter into a collective bargaining agreement with its firefighters that matches their union's proposal on wage increases through 2014.

City council on Tuesday accepted a conciliator's decision to go with the offer by the International Association of Fire Figthers Local 3331, although they weren't happy about it.

"My dissatisfaction is with the system. It's broken," councilman Maria Ermie said.

The firefighters union had proposed no wage increase in 2012, 5.25 percent in 2013, and 2.5 percent in 2014, while the city had proposed a 1.75 percent increase each year. A fact finder then recommended a 2.75 percent increase in 2012 and then 2.5 percent the next two years.

The matter went to reconciliation after the city rejected the fact finder's report, which was issued July 25.

"We are pleased that a solution has been made. We are disappointed that it had to go this far," said union president Pete Scarborough.

He said this was the second consecutive time that fire department contract negotiations had to go to arbitration.

Ms. Ermie said it was unfortunate that the conciliator could not come up with a compromise but had to pick between the city's offer and the union's offer. By statute, the council must accept the conciliator's decision.

"Our system calls for decisions to be made by fact finders and conciliators who have no accountability to the taxpayers in the city of Perrysburg," she said in a prepared statement following a lengthy executive session. "They do not consider the fact that our water and sewer taxes will continue to increase, the need for a second fire station, and other expenses that must take place to sustain services in a growing community."

Councilman Timothy McCarthy echoed her sentiments, saying that comparison to salaries in the private sector was overlooked.

"That's how you end up with bad results like this," he said.

The conciliator found that Perrysburg was an affluent city that could afford the increases proposed by Local 3331, and that the wage hikes would keep pace with cumulative increases received by police officers from 2006-2011, Ms. Ermie said.

"I don't remember when this became a race," she said.

Ms. Ermie said the city had increased police officers' wages to remain competitive and that recent firefighter wage increases -- 6.45 percent in 2010 and 1.75 percent in 2011 -- were above the state average when their salaries already were competitive.

Mr. Scarborough said firefighters had been providing excellent service to the community without a contract since Feb. 28. Since the year was almost over and the conciliator cannot award back wages, the 5.25 percent increase for 2013 is a "lump sum" of the fact finder's recommended increase of 2.75 percent the first year and 2.5 percent the second year.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at rconklin@theblade.com or 419-356-8786.



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