Emergency workers near pension deal

Balto. County plan sent to union for approval

March 03, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The Ruppersberger administration has reached a tentative deal with Baltimore County firefighters and paramedics on a new pension plan, officials said yesterday.

The agreement, reached late Thursday, is scheduled to be announced Monday after a few minor issues are resolved, said Michael Day, president of Baltimore County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Local 1311.

The deal, which must be ratified by union members, would take effect in 2004 and is expected to include a 32-year deferred retirement option, officials said.

Under the plan, firefighters on the job at least 32 years would receive monthly pension payouts, plus a large lump-sum payment when they retire.

The program is designed to keep experienced firefighters on the job longer. In exchange for the lump-sum payments, they would receive lower annual pensions.

Under the current program, firefighters and paramedics with 20 years of service receive a pension equal to 50 percent of their salary at retirement. Those who stay 25 years get 60 percent.

Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, described the deal as "a major labor agreement," but refused to comment on the details until Monday's expected announcement.

"We expect this to be a program that helps us retain qualified firefighters and paramedics," she said. Union officials said the agreement also includes changes in the way firefighters earn and trade in sick time.

Firefighters and county officials have been negotiating a new pension agreement since October.

In January, Baltimore County police officers rejected the county's proposal for a deferred retirement option program. The two parties remain in negotiations.

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