Providence Firefighters’ Raise Could Trigger Millions in Raises for Teachers
Friday, July 03, 2015
recently agreed upon Providence teachers' contract could trigger millions in additional costs to the city, if the city's firefighters see a significant pay increase in light of Mayor Jorge Elorza's platoon change proposal.
The new three-year teachers' contract language stipulates that if other municipal unions receive more than a 1% raise during the years of the contract, that teachers would get that same amount -- as a firefighters are being tapped to get as high as a 5% increase, due to potential changes in their work schedules if a platoon change shift moves forward.
"What we don't know what the extent of the potential impact, and how to avoid the trigger," said City Council President Luis Aponte on Thursday. "For us it's an issue, as the [teachers] contract has not been ratified by the Council."
Teachers salaries account for over $170 million in spending by the city, with the Internal auditor's latest projections, which were from Fiscal Year 2015 through Fiscal Year 2017, ranging between $172 million and $174 million.
City Council finance chair John Igliozzi, head of the committee where the contract is currently pending, did not respond to request for comment.
Contract Language Clarification Sought
The language of the teacher's contract says that "In the event that the city agrees to any collective bargaining agreement or stipulated interest arbitration to a General Wage Increase for City employees in excess of one percent (1%) for Fiscal Year 2016 then all members of Local 958, including those who have retired in Fiscal Year 2016, shall be entitled to the same wage increases. The parties agree that this provision shall not apply to awards established by an interest arbitration panel and/or arbitration awards for City and School as a result of contested arbitration hearing."
Providence firefighters are slated to get a previously negotiated raise of 3% this year, but in light of the proposed platoon change from four to three -- which was opposed by the firefighters and has seen a retirement rate of four times the usual annual amount -- the city has indicated that a pay raise would be on the table.
"The administration offered 5%, so there's the potential for a lot of money to be at stake," said Aponte. "We need to figure out what that means. I've talked with [Internal Auditor Matt Clarkin]."
Providence Teachers Union president Maribeth Calabro, when asked if the clause was put in the contract to put teachers on par with other unions - and whether she expected an increase if the firefighters got one -- said "yes" and "yes."
Negotiations, Next Steps
Aponte noted that the city is currently in negotiations with the municipal employees' union Local 1033, which "could have ramifications" as well.
"The city has extended its platoon shift plan until August 1, so we'll see what happens," said Aponte. "The City also has 1033 to work out at this time as well."
Clarkin said on Thursday that he is planning on talking with the Chief Financial Officer of the school department next week.
"I want to have a general conversation," said Clarkin. "Just to talk about what this could mean."
Firefighter union president Paul Doughty declined to comment on Thursday.
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