Fire union OKs contract

3-year agreement provides pay raises of about 19 percent

Pay scale is restructured

June 01, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County firefighters ratified a three-year labor contract yesterday that provides salary raises of about 19 percent, including 14 percent across-the-board increases and at least another 5 percent from new longevity increases and a restructured pay scale.

During two days of voting, about half of the county's nearly 500 firefighters and paramedics voted in what union officials described as "overwhelming" support for the three-year deal.

The executive board declined to release the ratification tally, said John West, the negotiations committee chairman for the Anne Arundel County Professional Firefighters Local 1563.

"It was a good response, so we're pleased," West said.

Not all members were happy, though, primarily because the firefighters contract does not match the terms of the new police contract, which will provide a 15 percent raise next year under a new pay scale that includes a 7 percent across-the-board raise. Police pay will rise another 15 percent in the second and third years of the contract, according to most recent accountings.

"We felt all along that we deserve parity with police," said Jim Edwards, the union president. "But this is a good contract. There's something in the contract for everyone."

It was a last-minute fight for firefighters who went through an independent fact-finding process before county officials offered them a deal they tentatively accepted days before their scheduled impasse hearing.

Firefighters and paramedics had been holding weekly rallies before county council meetings and had been calling officials regularly to apply pressure for favorable terms. At one point, they brought spouses and children for an impromptu meeting with County Executive Janet S. Owens, who was not in her office at the time.

"I think county government has gained a new respect for fire and paramedic service. We have the togetherness to fight when we need to," Edwards said.

An Owens spokesman said the county executive was pleased with the support for the new contract.

Union rules required a seven-day waiting period before a ratification vote could be held this week during two morning and one evening voting session at the Glen Burnie Elks Lodge.

Members also had received a letter outlining the terms of the tentative agreement.

"There's not much to grumble about," said LeRoy Wilkison, a county firefighter for 31 years.

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