R.I. firefighters union reaches 5-year deal with city on pay, pension contributions
Providence firefighters would receive 4% annual raises, pay 10% to the city's pension fund in 2022, and have additional healthcare options
The Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Providence Firefighters Union has reached a tentative deal with Mayor Jorge Elorza's administration to boost pay and pension contributions, union president Derek Silva confirmed Tuesday.
Under the agreement, which spans July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2027, firefighters would receive 4% annual raises and pay 10% to the city's pension fund in 2022, with a 1.5% increase through 2026. In that year, pension contributions would rise to 16%.
While Silva called it "a mixed bag, like any negotiation," he described it as "both a good deal for the city and a good deal for the firefighters."
"It's no misunderstanding about how the pension system is, and I think any influx of money is important to the city," he said. "In addition to that, the pension contribution going to 16% at the end of the deal would put Providence firefighters at the highest employee pension contribution in Rhode Island for firefighters."
As of the last valuation report in July 2019, Providence's pension system was funded at about 23.9%. Last spring, Elorza proposed a $704-million pension obligation bond, though the idea received criticism from state Treasurer Seth Magaziner and hasn't come to fruition.
In a statement, Elorza praised Silva and union leadership for their negotiation efforts.
"My top priority since taking office has been addressing the city's long-standing structural challenges that have held the city back," the mayor said. "This agreement achieves significant pension reform as a means for longer term financial stability for the city and recognizes the hard work of our Providence firefighters."
According to the city, the deal also includes "a shift to a 4-tier health-care plan that includes health-care co-share increases for active members and future retirees."
Silva said that while he thinks the union as a whole will support the deal, it's "hard to tell."
"I'm optimistic," he added. "I think especially for firefighters they understand the pension system. They understand the importance of making sure there's longevity in it, so I think it will pass, but it's up to them."
Union members were notified on Tuesday about the details of the agreement and will have several weeks to mull it over before voting.