Hamilton Firefighters Collective Agreement

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The city is currently negotiating collective agreements with almost all unions. With staff costs accounting for half of the city`s total operating budget of $1.3 billion, city financial staff warned that taxes will increase by 4.8 percent this year – about $134 for the average homeowner – if all unionized employees receive a 3 percent pay increase. An agreement on raising firefighters` salaries over the next few years is causing concern among some municipal councillors and unions. Hamilton firefighters` salaries will increase by more than 9 per cent under a new collective agreement with the city – 3 per cent in 2010, 3.09 per cent in 2011 and 2.75 per cent in 2012. The average salary for firefighters is about $80,000. Councillor Sam Merulla, who supported the pay rise, said firefighters were “reasonable in their request for a pay rise.” He argued that if the City had fought its offer, the problem could have gone through an arbitration process where firefighters could have obtained a larger increase. The Council approved the increase in firefighters` salaries at a no-door meeting at the end of December, but the information only became public when firefighters ratified the agreement. “I`m actually happy for the Hamilton fire department,” he said. “I think they deserve all the wages they have been able to negotiate. But I think this recent action creates double standards, because it has brought pay increases to two of the three emergency departments.¬†“I`m concerned that it sets a precedent, that other unions say as well.¬†Representatives of the Hamilton Professional Fire Fighters Association could not be contacted for comment. Posteraro says the police have also seen an increase of about 3%. Their contract, ratified by the police prefecture in June 2010, forecasts 3.15 percent in 2009, 2.98 percent in 2010 and 3.075 percent in 2011. Some members of the Council say that the increase shows the importance of public safety and will avoid the need for conciliation.

Others say this sets a dangerous precedent, since the city is negotiating with all the other unions. The deal also drew the ire of city paramedics who have been negotiating with the city for two years. Mario Posteraro of OPSEU Local 256 says the city has insisted that negotiations with paramedics be increased by zero percent.