New Contract Firefighters’ Gift To Hartford

Thanks to Hartford firefighters for doing their part to smother some of the financial embers threatening the city. They’ve agreed to pay freezes for four years and other concessions the city badly needed.

If more unions did the same, Hartford would be looking at slightly less scary budget deficits down the road — and the city could make the case that it’s done everything it could to solve its fiscal problems, but now the state must help.

The firefighter deal ought to serve as a template for other unions that are now in negotiations, including police and administrators. The deal cuts the pay scale for new hires, putting their pay more in line with other communities’. It shifts firefighters to a high-deductible health insurance plan. It caps pensions at 70 percent of pay for new workers, among many other things.

The city needs restraints on all its gold-plated pensions, not just in the fire department. Former police Sgt. Sean Spell is a prime example.

Mr. Spell retired from the police force this summer shortly after coming under investigation for kicking the head of a subdued suspect. At just 46, he still qualified for a nearly $130,000 annual pension. He was arrested this month and charged with excessive force.

There’s nothing the city can do about such over-the-top benefits negotiated long ago, short of declaring bankruptcy and voiding those lavish agreements.

But pensions like Mr. Spell’s are part of the reason Hartford is in such a fix. Previous administrations gave away the store and borrowed too much, far more than a city of 18 square miles, half of them tax-exempt, could afford.

Labor concessions alone won’t put Hartford back in the black, but they would demonstrate that the city is changing its spendthrift ways.

The firefighters did right by the city. Here’s hoping other unions follow suit.

http://www.courant.com/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-hartford-firefighter-contract-20161222-story.html