Mayor: Fire union deal done before Boston blaze

"This contract was pretty much done before the tragedy...we delayed it a couple weeks because of the fact of what happened with the loss of the two firefighters," Mayor Martin Walsh said

Boston Herald

BOSTON — The city’s tentative contract deal with Boston Fire Fighters Local 718 was hammered out before Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr. and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy died in a Back Bay inferno March 26, Mayor Martin J. Walsh told the Herald today — and while he is withholding details, he says it’s one the city can afford.

“This contract was pretty much done before the tragedy. We finalized it after. We delayed it a couple weeks because of the fact of what happened with the loss of the two firefighters,” Walsh said when asked about the difficulty of negotiating at an emotional time for the city and for firefighters.

Walsh said he won’t release the details until the union memebrship has a chance to vote on the deal. But he said said the city can afford the contract “or I wouldn’t have agreed to it.” Both sides are heralding a deal that avoided arbitration.

Local 718’s last contract expired two years ago. Walsh would not say whether their presumed pay raises are competitive with the 25.4 percent, $87 million salary hikes an arbitrator awarded the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association over the next six years, or the six-year, $12.1 million and $21.9 million deals the city announced last week have been reached with the police superior detectives and superior officers unions.

Walsh said the firefighters’ contract and the police contracts are “completely separate. I can’t really talk about terms, but I’m not going to negotiate based on parity. I’m going to negotiate on the basis of what’s right for the taxpayer and also treating the public employees, whether it’s a firefighter or a DPW worker, with respect. I can’t afford to negotiate on parity because I’ve got to protect the taxpayer. It’s about having a good open process.

Walsh said the city’s talks with union officials for Local 718 were based on trust and respect. Those talks were “open and at times — I wouldn’t say heated, but pretty intense conversations. There’s respect on both sides, and not negotiating through the press and not negotiating through ‘he said, she said’ makes a big difference when you’re at the table and what’s said in the room stays in the room. I’m just glad we were able to avoid arbitration.”

The union next brings the tentative contract to its membership for a ratification vote.

In a statement released last night, Local 718 President Richard Paris said it was the first time the city has bargained in good faith with firefighters since 2001,

“Although we are unable to discuss the particulars of the agreement until it has been brought before the membership for a ratification vote, I am proud of what we and Mayor Walsh have accomplished,” Paris said. “All parties entered the negotiations with open minds, a willingness to compromise, and above all, always maintained a level of mutual respect.”

Copyright 2014 Boston Herald
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