Youngstown firefighters reject union contract

International Association of Fire Firefighters Local 312 voted to reject the fact-finder’s report after meeting on Monday and Tuesday. The union and city of Youngstown will continue negotiations.

YOUNGSTOWN —  International Association of Fire Firefighters Local 312 voted to reject a fact-finder’s recommendations for a new three-year contract between the union and the city of Youngstown after meetings on Monday and Tuesday. 

City Council also rejected the fact-finder’s recommendations in a special meeting on Tuesday. Fact-finder James Rimmel issued his report for the three-year contract between the city and Local 312 on April 28. 

Union President Charlie Smith said Local 312 believes the rejection is warranted for several reasons. 

Smith said over the last three contracts, Youngstown firefighters have received a wage increase totaling 2.5 percent, which was compared to a 16.5 percent rise in the cost of living in the United States over the same nine years. 

Although Rimmel’s recommendations did include slight wage increases over the next three years, Smith said they are small and come at the cost of losing Christmas Eve as a holiday. 

“That agreement would only widen the gap between what our members make and what they are expected to live by,” Smith said. 

The impasse began when the union argued the city was in its “best financial health in decades” and that other jurisdictions similar to Youngstown were paying their firefighters higher wages than city firefighters received.

As a result, the union demanded a 3 percent general wage increase in each year of the agreement. They also demanded the current wage scale be collapsed to increase the starting wage and reduce the amount of time it takes to reach the maximum wage rate. 

The city argued that it still faces a severe structural deficit and that its current “good financial health” was the result of the infusion of one-time money from workers compensation rebate and CARES Act fund. 

The city offered annual wage increases of 1 percent per year that are effective the first full pay period following Jan. 1 of each year of the contract. 

Rimmel recommended the city provide a 1 percent general wage increase starting Jan. 1, 2021 as well as an additional 1.25 percent increase for the pandemic bonus to be received in June 2021 and March 2022. 

The current starting salary for a firefighter is $25,470. Rimmel recommended the new starting wage increase to $26,532. 

Smith said the call volume and workload of Youngstown firefighters has increased significantly over the past several years while the city has decreased staffing to “dangerous levels.” 

“For doing more with less, our members feel they deserve better than this report suggests, especially at a time when the City’s financial outlook is so optimistic,” Smith said. “We also feel that in rejecting this report that we are in turn, as always, putting Youngstown’s citizens’ safety as a top priority.”

Law Director Jeff Limbian told Mahoning Matters Tuesday that the city and the union will go back to the table for negotiations. 

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