Mass. firefighters to get 9.5% raise stretched over 4 years
The Chicopee City Council approved the new contract more than a year after negotiations were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic
CHICOPEE — The City Council approved a new four-year contract for firefighters more than a year after the employees decided to put off negotiations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, the firefighters will receive a 9.5% raise stretched over four years. The City Council voted to approve spending $742,897 to fund the three-year contract and $204,000 to fund a separate one-year contract in 12-0 votes Tuesday night.
Contracts for firefighters and police expired during the COVID-19 pandemic but the International Association of Firefighters Local 1710 did not ask to start negotiations for nearly a year. Union talks began in May 2021, Mayor John L. Vieau said.
“As we went through COVID-19 the police and fire unions both knew we were going through a time of uncertanity…and they did their jobs,” Vieau said.
The city has also been negotiating with the police union and has signed a memo of understanding with that group, said Michael Pise, mayoral chief of staff.
The one-year firefighters’ contract is for July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 and gives employees a 2% retroactive raise. The increase is the same as other city union employees who had contracts received for that year, Vieau said.
The second contract runs retroactively from July 2021 to June 30 2024 and gives firefighters a 3% raise the first year, followed by a 2% raise and a 2.5% increase in the final year.
Paul Winspeare, director of Human Resources, called the contract negotiation sessions successful and said one change that will benefit both the city and firefighters is an increase in the education benefit firefighters will receive.
“Progressive training and education is essential,” he said.
“We worked hard as a team to ensure that we kept cognizant of the city’s finances with respect to salaries and monies as well as give recognition to the hard work and service of the firefighters,” he said.
The contract also includes the new federal Juneteenth holiday in the contract, he said.
City Councilor Joel McAuliffe thanked the union and the mayor’s office for agreeing on a good contract that takes care of all the members, including new hires who are sometimes slighted in negotiations.
“They did the city a favor knowing they had a lot going on. There was a lot of financial uncertainty. They stepped up to the plate and put a pause on their negotiations and deferred it to this point,” McAuliffe said, reminding others that firefighters, who also operate the city ambulance, were on the frontlines since the beginning of the pandemic.
Councilor Delmarina Lopez said her only concern was efforts to make the contract gender-neutral and use modern language should have used the pronoun they instead of he or she.
Winspeare agreed and said he will seek approvals from the union to make the changes since the contract was already ratified by members.