Police, firefighters, city employees agree to 3-year contracts

WARWICK, R.I. — City leaders and unions have reached agreements on new three-year contracts with 9- to 10-percent net pay increases for Warwick police, firefighters and municipal employees.

The new contracts, slated for review by the City Council on Monday, are expected to cost $1.4 million next year, an amount included in the budget finalized last week. The cost over three years starting July 1 is estimated to be $3.9 million, according to a fiscal note included with the contracts.

When both raises and concessions are taken into account, annual firefighter compensation is expected to rise 9.1 percent by the end of the contract, police compensation 9.2 percent and municipal worker compensation 10 percent.

In exchange for the raises, the unions agreed that new members, once they retire, will no longer be allowed to have family members covered under their city health insurance plans. A family health insurance plan is available to retirees under the current deal, but the new contract would only provide a plan for individuals.

Police and firefighters also agreed to higher health insurance copays, while municipal workers agreed to hike their pension contributions.

The retiree health insurance concession is part of the city’s effort to reel in its future non-pension retiree costs, known as Other Post-Employment Benefits, which now form an unfunded liability of $260 million. Mayor Scott Avedisian included $200,000 in his budget proposal to start a trust fund for those non-pension liabilities, but it was cut out of the City Council budget.

City officials said Thursday that they are waiting for a revised estimate of how much removing family members will save in future health insurance costs.

In justifying the raises, Avedisian noted that the three unions had not seen raises since 2012 and had absorbed furloughs, higher health insurance costs and other concessions to get the city through the recession.

The package of concessions and pay raises is “justified, fair, reasonable and fiscally responsible,” Avedisian said in a letter accompanying the proposed contracts.

The contracts were each agreed to by union leaders last month and approved by union members in a series of votes ending June 3.

The police contract, which covers 171 members of the Warwick Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, includes 3-percent across-the board pay hikes to officers each of the next three years.

The municipal contract, which covers more than 400 members of Council 94, Local 1561, also provides for 3-percent increases each year during the contract and bumps the jobs of animal control officer, heavy equipment mechanic and traffic sign marker up two pay grades.

The firefighters contract, which covers some 220 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2748, provides for five 1.5-percent raises (every six months except January 2016). The firefighters also negotiated an increase in their holiday pay rates and increases in the amount of unused sick time they can redeem.