After 3 1/2 years of negotiations, the town and the firefighters’ union have agreed to a labor contract. The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 Monday night for ratification. The firefighters’ union approved the pact some time last month.
But the public will have to wait a little longer to find out what’s in the contract.
As the Townsman was going to press Tuesday morning, Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski, Fire Chief Michael Mansfield and firefighters’ union president Eric Teichert were scheduled to have a “signing ceremony” to commemorate the event.
As such, Stapczynski, selectmen and the fire chief refused to discuss details of the plan Monday night. They also refused to publicly release the document until after the signing ceremony.
While it’s not known what’s in the agreement, it has already expired. In fact, the contract covers three years ending in June 2014. So already, the town and firefighters have to start negotiations on a new contract.
It is also not clear why it took so long to negotiate the contract. As of this spring, it was the only outstanding union contract among 15 bargaining groups in town.
Teichert, the union president, did not return multiple calls for comment.
Both Mansfield and Stapczynski said there was money in the budget to cover the retroactive raises.
“We built settlement costs into the Fire Department budget,” Stapczynski said, noting there is $372,588 in so-called “unclassified pay” in this year’s budget to cover the raises.
He would not say what percentage raises firefighters will be getting.
There are 67 people in the union, including 50 firefighters, 13 lieutenants and four deputy chiefs. Neither Mansfield nor two clerical staff in his office are in the union.
Last year, the Fire Department budget was $7.5 million, of which 93 percent, or $7 million, was for salaries and benefits. Firefighters’ union pay ranges from $46,000 to more than $100,000, according to town documents.
Mansfield, while refusing to comment on specifics, noted that “there were things the town was looking to get out of the firefighters to bring them in line with other bargaining units in town. They were successful on a couple of items. They held the line. There were some things the town wanted, from selectmen all the way down.”