The city council approved a series of labor contracts with its police and fire unions on Tuesday night that will produce considerable immediate and long-term savings for overburdened property owners, said municipal officials.
Immediate savings stem from elimination of retroactive payments and wage increases for fire. There’s also no retroactive payments for police; however, there is reduced retroactive wage increases for officers which will be spread out over a three-year period to reduce any tax shocks.
Both police and fire agreed to eliminate their traditional health insurance coverage and move to the city’s plan. The unions will also cooperate with the city as it looks to join the state health benefits plan creating long-term savings for taxpayers.
“I think this was a hard negotiated contract,” said council president William McKoy speaking about the police contracts in the council chambers in presence of police and fire union officials.
Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman and chairman of the public safety committee, said, “The best part I like is there’s no retroactive.” The unions also agreed to lesser annual pay increases – 1.36-percent for police and 1.06-percent for fire – for the life of the contracts creating substantial savings for taxpayers.
“Paterson is not a rich city. We tried to provide the best pay possible within our means. And we expect based on that, that you provide the best service that you can,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
The city spends a large portion of its $155 million municipal budget on fire and police departments. Public safety ate up $77.7 million of the city’s budget in fiscal year 2016, according to municipal documents.
“This is a fair contract,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. “We are saving money in the long run.”
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said he would have liked to see more concessions from the unions, but did not want the contracts to go before an arbitrator, who, he said, often favor labor unions.
“There’s a lot of skin off the bones to do this. We’re going through tremendous sacrifice to ensure you are reasonably compensated for doing the job for Paterson,” said Morris.
Highlights of the unions contracts have been provided below.
The new agreement between the Paterson Firefighters Association and the Paterson Fire Officers Association runs from July 1st, 2010 through June 20th, 2019 and August 1st, 2012 through July 31st, 2019.
Firefighters will receive a 9.5-percent wage increase over the life of the agreement amounting to 1.06-percent per year. They will not receive any retroactive wage increases or payments as part of the deal saving taxpayers $5.65 million, according to a briefing document prepared by the city’s labor attorney Steven Glickman of Newark-based Lite DePalma Greenberg.
The Paterson Firefighters Association also agreed to a 12-step salary guide for new members hired after July 1st, 2016. Members will move up step by step each year. Compared to members hired prior to the aforementioned date, the new salary scale is expected to save $141,821 per firefighter.
All six contracts have flat longevity figures and require more service years to qualify for longevity. This will save $49,900 to $46,700 per firefighter, $64,500 to $84,000 per captain, $108,800 to $132,800 per battalion chief, and $137,000 to $163,900 per deputy chief.
“We can’t have two tier citizenship. Right now, longevity does not exist for anybody except for police and fire,” said McKoy pointing to the state’s mandate that the city ought to eliminate longevity pay for all employees. “All employees should be treated the same when they work for the same company.”
Fire units agreed to reduce terminal leave payment to 500 hours saving taxpayers $8,600 per firefighter, $10,900 per captain, $13,400 per battalion chief, and $15,000 per deputy chief.
The agreement with the Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA Local 1) and the Police Superior Officers Association (SOA) is similar to the fire contracts. Both units are limited to 9.5-percent wage increase over the life of the agreement — August 1st, 2012 through July 31st, 2019.
The wage increase amounts to 1.36-percent per year.
The PBA contract forgoes retroactive wage increases for 2012 and 2013, but calls for an across the board increase of 2.25-percent increase for 2014. Patrol officers at the top of the salary guide receive 2.25-percent retroactive wage increase for 2015.
Similarly, the SOA members forgo retro increases for 2012, 2013, but receive increases of 2.75-percent for 2014, according to the contract. Members at the top of the salary receive 2.75-percent increase for 2015.
The retro pay increases will be distributed over a three-year period lessening a tax impact.
Wage increases for fiscal years 2016-2019 will be applied to the top step for both the PBA and the SOA. PBA increases amount to $8.2 million and saves the city $611,800 by not having it across the board for all members. SOA increase at only the top step for fiscal years 2016-19 saves $6,600 per sergeant, $7,800 per lieutenant, $8,600 per captain, and $9,570 per deputy chief.
The PBA will develop a new salary guide for its members hired after August 1st, 2016 increasing years of service to get to the top pay level. This will save the city $74,360 per officer.
Longevity for police will be calculated in flat figures rather than percentages and require more years of service to climb up the longevity scale. This will save the city $57,160 per officer, $124,000 per sergeant, $152,100 per lieutenant, $186,700 per captain, and $218,100 per deputy chief.
The current 720 hours of terminal leave pay upon retirement after 25 years of service has been reduced to 500 hours.
Other concession by police unions include reduction in paid leave for first 21 years of employment, 1 year limit for modified duty, and elimination of per credit incentive for newly hired officers. Educational incentive now requires receipt of a degree.
“I was a little shocked with the education piece of it — pulling back on that,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, who works at the Passaic County Community College. She said a degree is not needed to be a good police officer, but noted, “An educated cop is a better cop than one that may be a hothead.”
The police units also agreed to modify 4 on 4 off work schedule for officers to allow for greater flexibility.
Council members unanimously approved the 6 contracts.