By Anthony J. Machcinski
The Town of Kearny won significant givebacks from the Kearny Fire Superior Officers Association, FMBA Local 218, in a newly concluded labor contract.
The deal was announced at the Town Hall meeting on June 26, just before the old contract was set to expire.
The contract will run for three and a half years, expiring on Dec. 31, 2015. This was done in order to get the contract to expire on a calendar year instead of a fiscal year to coincide with the town’s budget. Both sides managed to settle on new terms without having to call in a third party, such as an arbitrator.
“It’s always better to have an agreement because both parties are controlling their destiny,” Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl said. “Arbitration usually ends up with bad feelings, so I’m glad they were able to reach an agreement that people can live with.
If an arbitrator is ruling, it’s someone who knows nothing about Kearny and its decisions that we have to live with.”
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos also added, “I think it’s a fair settlement and it achieves most of our goals. I want to acknowledge those who were key in the negotiations and attorneys from both sides. They were critical in receiving this result.”
One positive outcome to result from the new contract is the ability for the department to keep its core services without sacrificing too much pay, town officials said. The contract, which will impact new hires, will change the salaries and the length of time to reach those salaries. Increases over the length of the contract would be 0% in year one, .75% in year two, 1.5% in year three, and .5% in the final six months. The increase would total $288,990 cumulatively over the life of the contract.
Along with those increases, the contract also increases the amount of steps it takes to reach maximum salary and reduces the amount of pay. The revised pay scales are as follows:
• Old contract- 6 step plan: $108,000 in year one to $138,000 in year six.
• New contract- 11-step plan: $103,600 in year one to $121,021 in year 11. Deputy
• Old contract- 6 step plan: $142,000 in year one to $177,659 in year six.
• New contract-10 step plan: $124,718 in year one to $142,526 in year 10.
The change in steps is critical to our goals with the town,” Kearny Councilwoman Eileen Eckel said at the meeting. “We want our department to provide the core services they provide. If we continued on our current salary guide, we could not do that.”
FMBA President Jeff Bruder said: “The town is able to continue to keep the current number of officers with less cost to them. We thought it was important to maintain the current staffing as well as the current amount of firefighters to provide protection to the public. We tried to reach numbers we both could work with.”
For a department that has been stripped down to the bone over the past few months, the new contract provides a ray of hope for the department’s future growth, Dyl said.
“(The new contract) will allow us to hopefully begin the rebuilding process and replace vacancies,” Dyl said.
The town still has to settle a new contract with the rank and file firefighters. Neither side would provide an update on those talks. Santos and the rest of the council met in a closed session after the public meeting in order to get an update on those negotiations.