WOONSOCKET â€“ The city's firefighters union has ratified a contract calling for some $4.5 million in concessions through June 30, 2014, paving the way for final approval Thursday night by the City Council.
Retroactive to July 1, the three-year pact calls for a wage freeze during the current fiscal year, followed by raises of 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
But city officials say most of the projected savings result from an end to the practice of allowing firefighters to accrue compensatory time off instead of taking overtime. The new curbs will result in dramatic savings, they say, because compensatory time absences often mean other firefighters must be called in for backup at overtime rates â€“ a double-whammy on payroll.
In addition, the contract calls for a new class of â€śfloatersâ€ť â€“ probationary trainees who could be called in to work regular-time hours to fill in shifts that might have otherwise been slotted for overtime subs.
â€śThe firefighters said from the beginning these are tough economic times and we understand that,â€ť said Lt. Christopher Oakland, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 732. â€śWe just wanted to be treated with the same respect as the other unions, in a proper process, and sit down and negotiate face-to-face, not in the newspaper and not in the courts.â€ť
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