LARCHMONT, N.Y. New Larchmont firefighters will contribute a great deal more to the community under the terms of their union's new labor contract, which the board of trustees ratified at its Dec. 12 meeting.
After more than a year of negotiations between the board and Larchmont Professional Firefighters Association, the new five-year contract will cap annual raises at 1.5 percent, a major reduction from the 4 percent raises employees have enjoyed over the past 10 years.
"This rate of wage increase was obviously untenable," said Josh Mandell, mayor of Larchmont. "Clearly a lower rate of increase would provide much needed relief over the life of the contract."
Mandell broke the contract down into three sections: short-term savings, intermediate-term savings and long-term savings. The annual cap on wage increase represented the short-term. The board found intermediate savings by removing the $3,500 cap on health care insurance contributions for new employees. While pre-existing employees will maintain that cap, all new employees will contribute 25 percent to their premiums during their career.
However, the major savings, Mandell said, comes from health care contributions after retirement. Pre-existing employees will still contribute 25 percent with no cap. But the rate for new employees will be 50 percent, the maximum allowable contribution under New York State law.
"We have come a long way in the past year-and-a-half," said Mandell, who recently renegotiated the Larchmont Police union's labor contract . "The credit should be given to our employees first and foremost, who now make contributions to their health insurance at a rate that is substantially higher than many municipalities in this area require."
At the beginning of the negotiation process, the fire department, which has several vacant positions, requested the mayor fill them. Mandell took a "wait and see" approach up until now. But this labor agreement, he said, gives the village the ability to begin the process of filling those vacancies.
After ratifying the contract with unanimous consent from the board, Mandell announced he would step down as fire commissioner of the Larchmont Fire Department. He then appointed trustee John Komar, who he intended to appoint when elected mayor in spring 2010. He waited until these negotiations, which, he said, can be testy at times, were complete.
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