Philadelphia Firefighters, Paramedics Gain New Contract

Philadelphia’s firefighters have been awarded a four-year contract that increases salaries about 9.5 percent over the life of the agreement.

The new contract with the Philadelphia Fire Fighters’ and Paramedics Union, Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, was reached through arbitration Friday morning and will cost the city about $70 million, Mayor Nutter said.

The contract also contains changes in how the union’s health-care costs are managed that should result in long-term savings for the city, Nutter said.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2013, which is when the union’s last labor agreement expired. It will run until June 30, 2017. The agreement calls for annual raises of 3, 3, and 3.25 percent, with a reopener in 2016 to determine how much will be paid in the last year.

The deal is the last of four contracts the administration has reached with its major employee unions, which, besides Local 22, include AFSCME District Council 33 and District Council 47, and Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Nutter noted that only one of those contracts – D.C. 33 – will expire in 2016, meaning the city’s next mayor will have the luxury of not immediately facing labor negotiations with all four unions. When Nutter took office in 2007, all four contracts expired within six months.

“This was an important issue for me, having gone through this experience,” he said. “Coming into office in January and having four major contracts expire in six months does not necessarily put either party in the best possible position.”

The new contract permits union members with five or more years of experience to live outside the city, a provision that was included in the last contract with the city’s police officers.

Nutter said “very, very, very few” of the eligible police officers had chosen to move out of the city.

The contract also provides changes in how union members’ health care is funded.

Rather than providing the union a per capita contribution toward health-care coverage, the city will directly take over the costs of benefits. A similar agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police has resulted in a $70 million savings by the city, Nutter said.

As part of the changes in health care, the union has agreed to the establishment of a program that requires members to have biannual medical exams. There are also monetary incentives for members to participate in wellness and fitness programs.

chepp@phillynews.com 215-854-25940

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