Philly signs 3-year contract with firefighters

A firefighter spreads ice melt to prevent water from freezing on the street after battling a multi-alarm fire that damaged apartments in the 4900 block of Walnut Street in West Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.

Philadelphia officials on Thursday announced a new three-year contract with the firefighters’ union that offers wage increases to members and requires them to increase their pension contributions.

The new agreement will cost the city an estimated $150 million over six years, including the current fiscal year that ends in June, said Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Kenney. The administration is still examining options for funding the contract, which is in effect from July 2017 through June 2020.

Members of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, which represents firefighters and paramedics, will receive 3.25 percent raises in the current fiscal year — retroactive to July 1, 2017 — and raises of 3.5 percent and 3.75 percent in the following two years, respectively.

Employees will also increase their pension contributions under the new contract, which the city said will bring more than $57 million into the pension fund in the next 13 years.

The union signed the agreement with the city after a panel of arbitrators awarded the contract.

Ed Marks, president of Local 22, said in a statement that the union was generally pleased with the contract, because it includes higher wages and better life insurance policies.

“The rise in our pension contributions, however, is not sitting well with our members,” he said. “The fact is that the city’s pension fund is mismanaged, underfunded, and in trouble. But the city shouldn’t be trying to fix the pension problems off the backs of our members.”

Marks said he was disappointed that the city did not accept a counter-proposal and pushed the pension changes that also were in a police contract awarded last year.

The city has said it has a goal of having its pension fund 80 percent funded by 2030, and called this contract — as well as the agreement signed with the Fraternal Order of Police in August and a 2016 agreement with municipal workers — an important step toward that goal. The city said that it would also pursue pension changes with AFSCME District Council 47, its white-collar union.

Still, much of the money needed to stabilize the pension fund will come from taxpayers.