ALPENA - In January the City of Alpena began negotiating with Local 623 of the International Association of Fire Fighters on a new contract. Last week the final steps were taken to ratify a new three-year deal.
During the bargaining sessions the two sides were able to agree on a wage increase for firefighters as well as concessions by the union that will help the city save on its ever-increasing health care costs.
The firefighters will receive a 1 1/2 percent raise for the first two years of the contract, which begins on July 1, and no wage increase in the final year. In return the union agreed to accept a cafeteria health care plan with an increased cost share. The employees also will have an increase in their contribution into their retirement plan, but will get a larger food allowance.
News Photo by Betsy Lehndorff
Firefighter/paramedic Brett Miller leans over the desk at council chambers Monday night to shake hands with Mayor Matt Waligora, signaling approval of a new union contract. Miller was on the negotiating team.
Interim City Manager Greg Sundin, who led the negotiations for the city for the first time, said everyone involved was aware of the current financial situation and the importance of fairly compensating the fire personnel. He said in his opinion the process went fairly smoothly.
"I would say there was a mutual respect for one another and an overall agreement that something needed to get done. The overall atmosphere was good," Sundin said.
Now that the deal with the firefighters is finished, talks with the other unions are beginning to heat up. Sundin said contracts with the Department of Public Works, the clerical staff and police command and control are being addressed. He said there has been a pair of bargaining sessions with DPW and one with command and control thus far and a meeting with clerical could take place this week. Sundin said as was the case with the firefighters, he expects talks to be respectful and for both sides to sacrifice some perks to gain others.
"They are aware of the position and condition of the city and we have provided them with information for things like what health care changes are on the horizon," Sundin said. "Unfortunately the cost for employees goes up and there has already been reduction for them. Raises have been at zero and now there will be more out-of-pocket costs. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times, but it doesn't mean it isn't any less concerning for them as it is for the city."
In a press release Sundin expressed his gratitude to the union for the patience and understanding they showed throughout the process.
"The city appreciates the fire union working with the city to control costs in those trying financial times," he said.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com