By Ron Leir
The Township has hammered out a new labor contract with its career firefighters’ unions, just in time for three new hires to enjoy the fruit of the unions’ labors … at the negotiating table, that is.
From the union point of view, while some of those fruits will be sweet –pay raises totaling 8% over four years – others will taste sour, especially for new employees but some that will weaken existing contract provisions for old and new.
More about that later. In the meantime, the Nutley Fire Department is happy to welcome its three new members – Ryan Lucas, Alan Nardiello and Michael Ferraro, all age 30 and all Nutley residents.
Nutley hired the trio, only after having applied for – and getting – a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Firefighter & Emergency Response) grant of $599,152 – sufficient to pay the salaries and fringe benefits for four firefighters for two years, with no local match required, according to Deputy Fire Chief Paul Cafone.
Lucas, Nardiello and Ferraro made a state-certified appointment list that the state Dept. of Personnel issued in March 2013 but it wasn’t until the fall when the Township Board of Commissioners voted to hire the three men, after concluding that the township would be able to afford the payments after the two years, Cafone said.
“We hope to hire a fourth firefighter in early 2014,” he added.
That’s when the NFD plans to send Ferraro and the fourth firefighter for a 10-week training program at the Essex County Fire Academy. Lucas and Nardiello recently completed their training. At graduation ceremonies on Dec. 10, his 16 fellow recruits presented Lucas with the Merit Award as the one among them most likely to display leadership qualities on the job.
Ferraro, who had been working as an officer with the New York Police Department, has yet to take the training course.
Lucas has three cousins in the Nutley Fire Department (Capt. Robert Ryan and Firefighters Edward Ryan and Joe Ferraro) and his dad, Ben, having served with the U.S. Navy, was assigned to ordnance and was heavily involved with firefighting duties on his ship. Lucas served with the U.S. Marines Wing Support Squadrons 472 and 473 during a tour of duty in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007.
After completing his military service, Lucas resumed construction work and then enrolled at Lincoln Technical Institute to get certified as a diesel mechanic but had to take a leave of absence. He hopes to go back at some point and apply his technical skills with the Fire Department.
Nardiello and Ferraro have almost identical backgrounds: Both came up through the local public school system, both joined the Nutley Junior Fire Volunteers, both enrolled at Union County College for fire science degrees. And they got married a month apart.
While his father-in-law, Sal Lubrertazzi, was a member of the NFD before Nardiello applied, the rookie said he’s always been drawn to fire rigs. “I love the thrill of being around fire engines,” he said. “It gives me a sense of pride that I’m able to give a helping hand to people in time of need.”
Ferraro echoed that sentiment, saying: “Being a firefighter is something I always wanted to do as a kid. I wanted to get out there and help people who need you in times not so good for them.”
Staying true to that goal, Ferraro said he’s been “taking the Civil Service test for firefighter from [age] 18 on.
”While waiting to be called, the recruit has worked as a bank teller, as a part-time school custodian, with the family catering business in Belleville, and, most recently, as a two-year member of the NYPD. The temporary tilt to law enforcement could’ve been a family influence, since his great-grandfather, Gerald, was a Nutley Police captain and his dad, also Gerald, was a 25-year Essex County sheriff’s officer.
With the hiring of the rookies, the career NFD roster will climb to 35 – still short of the 39 members who were aboard in 2008, according to Cafone. The shrinkage, he said, was due to retirements, with more likely to come. The career members are backed up by about 60 volunteers, he said.
Then there’s the matter of the new labor contract between the township and FMBA Locals 44 and 44A, for which the terms were outlined in a Dec. 16 memorandum of agreement signed by Public Safety Commissioner/Mayor Alphonse Petracco, Local 44 President Greg Misner and Local 44A Vice President John Hund.
The membership of both locals have voted to ratify the proposed agreement which provides for annual 2% pay raises for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and for hiking clothing allowance, from the current $625 to $675 by 2016, but also calls for these givebacks:
• Reducing the yearly allotment of 60 hours of compensatory time to only 20 hours, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
• Adding three steps to the firefighters’ salary guide, increasing the total number of steps (to reach maximum base pay) to eight.
• Creating an additional step, going up to four, to the salary guide for all newly appointed fire lieutenants and captains.
• Extending, by two, the number of steps, for a total of three, on the guide for deputy chiefs.
• Eliminating longevity for new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014, except for those hired with the SAFER grant.
• Deleting stipends for senior fire inspector and fire prevention officer.
• Creating a two-tier system for vacation days, holidays and personal days for those employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013.
Another concession being made by the unions is, effective Dec. 31, 2013, “all employees with $15,000 or less in unused sick leave shall be capped at $15,000 upon retirement for the payment of unused sick leave. The sick leave bank for current employees that have more than $15,000 shall be frozen and given a dollar value [which] shall be determined by multiplying the employee’s daily rate of pay as of Dec. 31, 2013 (based upon an eight-hour work day) by the number of days in their sick bank as of Dec. 31, 2013. This frozen amount shall be the maximum amount at retirement for accumulated sick leave.”