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Cleveland Firefighters Get New Contract

The Cleveland Firefighters ended up negotiating two contracts - the final year of their last deal, and then a new pact that begins in June. The President of the Cleveland Firefighters Union Local 93, Bob Fisher, says their negotiations are usually wars but not this time.

Bob Fisher: This is absolutely a precedent setting moment for Local 93 in contract negotiations. We have never in our history ratified a contract prior to the end of a previous contract.

Local 93 thought they had an agreement with Mayor Jane Campbell but the Jackson Administration put a halt to that, saying the city couldn't afford it. Now they've agreed to a 3% raise retroactive to last April and another 2.2% for this April. That will push the base salary from $48,000 to $54,000. Jackson said the city then offered a 0% raise for this June, then 2% in each of the following two years. But the firefighters changed their work rules.

Frank Jackson: It allowed for us to run the department with no less service, more efficiently from our perspective as managers, and for that we were perfectly willing to put the money back into the pockets of firefighters.

Here's how the firefighters union gained greater efficiency. First, they agreed to pay higher health care premiums, to fall in line with the rest of the city workers. Second, they evened out their work schedules to avoid being understaffed on weekends. And, Fisher says, they did the same with vacation schedules.

Bob Fisher: So there's not 20-30 extra firefighters extra in the winter months and 20-30 needing to be hired on a daily basis during the summertime. It's all been balanced out throughout the city which will spread out our members time off and it will give the city the ability to save in having to hire overtime.

Cleveland spent $5.3 million on overtime last year. Jackson said the new rules will save a lot of money.

Frank Jackson: We look to save about $1.2 to $1.5 million in a full year, based on scheduling. We also, based on a new healthcare package that is being adopted now, there's some hundreds of thousands of dollars - you're right, that's a lot of money.