Firefighter pact would save millions: Mayor

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The city and the Warwick firefighters have reached a tentative agreement that promises to save in excess of $2 million, according to Mayor Joseph Solomon’s estimate, as well as clear away a number of grievance and arbitration cases that could have dragged on at a cost to both the city and the union.

The two-year agreement retroactive to June 30, 2018 – at which time the last contract expired – offers no pay raises for either of the years and would implement the Tier II pension reform and resolve sick and vacation time payments.

“So, for the duration of this two-year contract it would be zero, zero. Which, converted to dollars is a significant amount of savings – multi-million-dollar savings – that really the city of Warwick desperately is in need of at this point and time,” Solomon said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The tentative agreement, which must be ratified by the rank-and-file and the City Council, spans from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2020.

What might the agreement mean to the taxpayer?

“I can tell you this, most arbitrations today look to other communities and other bargaining groups within the same community and would at least, at a minimal, try to duplicate any salary increase. Taking that philosophy into account, that would be a minimum of 2.75 [percent] per year in each of the coming two years. If you take that 2.75 [percent] and the costs associated with receiving that decision, we would be exceeding over $2 million-plus in savings by reaching this potential agreement,” Solomon said.

According to a release issued by the mayor’s office, the contract language addresses several issues relative to the calculation of the payout of unused sick time, vacation time and pension reform.

A “side agreement” regarding sick time payouts, entered into by former union president William Lloyd and former fire chief Edmund Armstrong, took effect in 2013 without council approval. This changed how accrued sick time payments were made. This language within the side agreement was subsequently not included in the most current contract, which spanned from July 2015 to June 2018 under the Avedisian administration. The practice was rescinded immediately after the agreement was brought to Solomon’s attention, and the union subsequently filed a grievance.

The tentative agreement rescinds, effective July 1, 2019, the payment method established by the “side agreement.”

A second issue related to the payout of unused vacation time is also resolved in the tentative agreement, Solomon said. When ratifying terms of the 2015-18 contract, the City Council was presented with language that set the payment for “banked” vacation days at one-fifth of the employee’s weekly pay; however, language that made its way into the final collective bargaining agreement set that rate at one-fourth. The new agreement restores the one-fifth calculation.

The third issue that the tentative agreement would resolve relates to pension reform. In 2011, the City Council passed legislation that would have affected firefighters hired on or after July 1, 2012. They would have been placed in a “Tier II” pension group. This group would have to work five more years to earn a 50-percent pension, with a pension percentage reduced by 3 to 4 percent. It also capped disability pensions and reduced the maximum pension benefit.

However, during negotiations for the 2012-15 and 2015-18 contracts, under the prior administration, that language was not included in the collective bargaining agreements. When the city began implementing the Tier II system in 2014, the union filed a grievance. In March, a panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of the union and ordered the city to make those affected whole.

The proposed agreement includes Tier II pension terms for all employees hired on or after July 1, 2018.

What of concessions by the city?

“If you want to call eliminating other arbitration grievances that don’t have to be dealt with, then yeah, I guess there was a concession. That, again, is an additional savings and clarification of issues that were never clarified in the past,” Solomon said.

Michael Carreiro, president of Warwick Firefighters IAFF Local 2748, could not be reached for comment.

“These are all issues that I inherited, and I cleared it up with this potential agreement. And I think this is a good thing for the city and I hope that the rank-and-file support it. I know the executive board supports it, and that makes me very pleased … This is a step in the right direction for the city of Warwick to clean up housekeeping from prior years,” Solomon said.

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Flexi-Bull

This has ZERO chance of passing by the rank and file. ZERO. The city loses in arbitration and he expects the Firefighters to pay for that loss. He really has no clue. Might be the dumbest contract offer we’ve ever seen. See ya in Arbitration Joe.

Thursday, May 2
Hillsgrove Hal

Edited for accuracy:

"This is a step in the right direction for the city of Warwick to clean up housekeeping from prior years,” Solomon (who was on the city council for 20 years and had multiple opportunities to address these issues but didn't) said.

Solomon also notably does not mention how much longevity pay increases will eat away at that imaginary $2 million in savings -- or how that $2 million over two years is pocket change compared with the city's overall budget.

As usual, it's what Solomon ISN'T saying that's the bigger story.

Thursday, May 2
Paul Wall

The contract includes no raises, solidifies and enacts pension reform (which legally the FD does not need to agree to btw), reversion of unused sick/vacation to previous, lesser payout amounts and another article that mischaracterizes the firefighters as schemers and yet Stasha, Cushman and I’m sure Cote are still up in arms that the firefighters haven’t agreed to give up enough. What incentive is there to help when where they do, they’re still slandered and criticized?

Stasha says the fact that there would be no raises mean nothing because the city workers and cops should have never gotten a raise either. With that line of thinking, the firefighters might as well deny the contract proposal and take the raise that was coming to them. Damned if you do, damned and vilified if you don’t.

Here’s the real rub. The politicians and pundits in this small city have allowed the situation between FD employees and the city to become completely caustic. By catering to the whims and fancies of a couple people mainly Stasha and Cote, the mayor and council are complicit in falsely portraying the firefighters as schemers and schiesters. They known it’s a false narrative and it was actually the city who botched the contact language and implementation of unproven policies with shoddy legal standing but it plays into their political rhetoric to turn the citizens of this city against a bargaining unit, so why would Merolla and Joe be fair, especially with Stasha and Cote doing the heavy lifting for them? Just keep alluding to “investigations” that aren’t happening.

Keep pissing on the heads of the firefighters and telling them it’s raining and you’re going to end up with a completely inflexible bargaining unit that makes no concession and argues every play for leeway and advantage. Some complain that its how the firefighters are now but if you really paid attention you’d have seen that in fact, they have been willing to make concessions. This wouldn’t be the first no raise contact they’ve agreed to recently. They’ve in fact taken temporary pay cuts to pay for the hiring of new personnel which cut into their overtime. That’s never acknowledged. It’s always “greedy greedy firemen.” Well, continue to bash, slander and take advantage of their good nature and it’s going to become a self fulfilling prophecy. It might already be too late.

Thursday, May 2
Jimmy

Can someone explain to me why, if Pres Merolla and Mayor says the FBI is investigating, possibly the side deals as has been noted, why would the Mayor make a deal in the middle of the investigation. BECAUSE THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ONE. You are all being lied to by this city leadership. Time to wake up.

Thursday, May 2
Patient Man

Seems like the FD is trading no raises for two years with not having to go through arbitration & possibly having to pay back the benefits accrued through the unratified side deals. Probably a good idea. FD & taxpayers can both walk away with an equally bitter taste in their mouths. Maybe we just move on.

Thursday, May 2
Can't believe it

I love it when people say we should just move on. I guess they didn't receive the exorbitant re-val that most of us just received. We'll being paying dearly for it.

The WFD is overpaid and their benefits are out of control. The taxpayers can no longer afford them. Mayor Solomon did nothing to address the legacy costs in the city. He knew he had to but he gave into the unions.

This contract I would expect from Avedisian and not Solomon. Wilkinson must have had Solomon's ear because she has to be thrilled with the agreement.

Not one abuse in benefits was addressed.

Mayor Solomon.... this contract is not your finest hour.

Thursday, May 2
Patient Man

Can't believe it

My housing valuation went up $50,000. About the same as everyone on my street. The revals are based on home sales in your area. Not the need of the city treasury. Revals are how well run cities raise the revenue needed to keep up with inflation. Not by increasing the tax rate every year.

The FD has agreed to no raises and Solomon has agreed to not try to clawback the benefits accrued through the side deals. There are many battles left to fight. If the union doesn't ratify the contract then we can fight this one to. Flexi-bull says there's ZERO chance of it being ratified. Maybe there are guys in the union that don't feel they did anything wrong (you did) and will advocate against ratification. Those guys will ratify & when they do they'll have the same bitter taste in their mouths as we do.

Avedisian screwed this city royally. If there are charges that can be brought, great. Bring them.

Thursday, May 2
Flexi-Bull

Patient Man, It will not be ratified.

Thursday, May 2
Daydreambeliever

I want to thank the mayor for releasing the details of the TA prior to his employees sitting down with there representatives to discuss the agreement.

Thank you Mayor for allowing everyone including me to offer an opinion.

This is not how bargaining is done once an agreement is made. You errored big time with this and will see this rejected by the members.

All you had to do was keep your mouth shut for a week but you couldn't do it.

Thursday, May 2
Jimmy

Daydream,

You are %100 correct. He left those meetings acknowledging that the details were not to be releas ed till both sides had a chance to explain what was in it, next week. He walked out the door and called the Projo. This is not going over well with the membership. No raise? Healthcare is going up 10%, pension payments are going up. The city just lost the arbitration ruling. I’ll take my chance in interest arbitration all day long. Word on the streets was the city looked really bad during arbitration. When this mayor stops thinking he is a king and wants to negotiate like a big boy, until then I’m all done with him.

Thursday, May 2
Honestinfo

This Mayor needs an advisor he is not a smart man. His history as an incompetent council member magnifies his level of incompetence as Mayor. When he screws up this contract he will no longer will be able to blame Avedisian.

Thursday, May 2
wwkvoter

I dont get how there can even be any work sessions if FBI has all the Fire Dept files...?

Thursday, May 2
Joe Friday

It's amazing that a whiny firefighter is complaining about pension cost increases. Don't you even understand how the pension payments work?

Talk to Scotty at RIPTA. He will describe the infamous "SELF-CORRECTING" mechanism. And that is when the unfunded liabilities increase because guys are walking out with $70 to $80 K pensions, that in 20 years will be at $150K a year and every last dollar they put into the system they will get back in 2 years of retirement, the amount of annual payments into the system need to increase - and the Taxpayers pay 2/3 of the increased cost and the overall cost and firefighter pay 1/3 of the increase and overall cost. Not a bad deal when you're walking out with free lifetime healthcare and a pension worth $3 to $4 million for contributing as little as $200 grand into the system over your entire employment.

And for the newer hired firefighter, if you actually believe you will get these same benefits when you retire - keep dreaming. The older guys don't give two SH#TS about your benefits and at some point, maybe a decade down the line or sooner, the reality check will arrive.

BTW Feds have been interviewing many people! Que the Theme Song!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIT-aCOypjM

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

“BTW Feds have been interviewing many people! Que the Theme Song!!”. That would explain why I saw a bunch of firefighters in handcuffs at headquarters today. Thanks. I’m going into hiding now.

Friday, May 3
Patient Man

Jimmy or Flexi-Bull,

When is the vote?

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

Next Friday.

Friday, May 3
Obervant1

I’ve yet to hear any whining from any firefighters, just the same few people although the creative screen names are a nice touch. If the FBI were investigating anyone from the FD then why in the world would Solomon offer any type of a contact? Doesn’t make sense and I don’t see this thing getting approval for the union .Solomon admitted himself that arbitrators would most likely side with the union and give them 2.75 . So why take zeros?

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

I won’t give any more details on the vote for fear that Rob Cote will infiltrate the meeting dressed as a construction barrel and take pictures.

Friday, May 3
wwkvoter

If the FF's approve a compromise (regardless of Mayor Blabbermouth allegedly leaking it), it would start to rebuild good will with the community that employs them in a fiscally challenging time. I think there's real value in that, and would prevent more labor fights going forward as the city cant pay it's bills. Just a thought.

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

When the mayor and council pres stops making up lies (FBI, side deals, schemes) then maybe I’ll be on board. The general public has no clue what it’s like to deal with this guy on a daily basis. The state police had to tell him he was not allowed to use lights and sirens to respond to incidents. I’ll go without raises for 3 years if the mayor comes clean. Simple as that.

Friday, May 3
wwkvoter

Oh? Mayor Solomon was running lights and sirens on what, his MayorMobile SUV??? What else is he doing that we should know about?

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

I’ve worked for this city for over two decades I’m a couple years from retiring. I have never had to deal with this type of leadership. He’s ruining this great city.

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

Why should the members of this union trust the mayor. Who leaves a meeting with negotiators after saying no media leaks till the ratification vote next week, and calls the Projo that night to leak the details before any member knows anything. A contract he offers zero raises and then tells the beacon they would have been awarded 2.75%. I’m baffled at his incompetence. Who knew a lawyer/used car salesman/politician would be bad a negotiating. The union just won a huge arbitration that he now wants the members to pay for with forgoing raises.

Friday, May 3
wwkvoter

Maybe the FBI has incorporated stealth techniques whereby interviewees themselves dont even know they've been questioned. Maybe even Jimmy has been through the mill and when they finished, was given the special FBI amnesia technique!

Friday, May 3
Jimmy

I give King Solomon kudos for one thing. He leaked out these articles with big headlines. He put the union in a no win situation. We vote it down we’re #*&%@s. We accept it, it’s not enough cuts. Bravo joe.

Friday, May 3
wwkvoter

If the fire union accepts, they will be seen as doing their part to help Warwick navigate a category five fiscal storm. In my opinion.

Friday, May 3
Can't believe it

The answer is simple for the taxpayers.....the City Council can't ratify this lousy contract. Bring the WFD back to the table and demand massive concessions.

Saturday, May 4
davebarry

Firefighters are still getting away with too much. They will sink the city. Meanwhile, they cherish their 4 days off so they can work their real jobs.

Saturday, May 4
Observanr1

Back to the table for Massive concessions?! Negotiations are give and take . This looks like all take in favor of the city. I don’t see how the firefighters are getting away with too much. Some guys work a second job because they have to .

Saturday, May 4
Jimmy

Dave, What we do on our off time is our own choice. We’re really at a point where your shaming someone for working two jobs? Idiotic comment

Saturday, May 4
Cat

Regardless of how the negotiations pan out in 2019, there is still the huge issue of pensions the city can't afford. Contracts and deals made over the past 20 years that are going to tank the city. Contracts and deals that were made with the full disclosure given to Solomon. The WFD deserves a fair and equitable contract. One that takes into consideration the type of job they work but also balances the ability for the citizens to pay for the upkeep.

Honestly, Solomon represented the best choice out of the field. Unfortunately, he is not the best man for the job. I would hate to see how Corrente would have weathered this financial storm!

Monday, May 6
wwkvoter

cat you make a lot of sense, but PLEASE.... dont draw out any ghosts better left in the PAST!

Tuesday, May 7
Hillsgrove Hal

Cat, I have to agree with wwkvoter that you make good points, and also that bringing up names from the past is probably not the wisest thing to do.

It is safe to say that Mayor Solomon was elected because he touted his experience on the city council as his main qualification for the mayor's office -- and yet he claims to have been fooled/tricked/misled by the previous mayor.

On top of that. he very unwisely announces a "settlement" with the firefighters union before the union has actually voted on it. It's difficult to understand why, unless he somehow thinks that he will generate public support for his proposal (and, by extension, against the fire union).

These are, to put it bluntly, rookie mistakes -- but he has been around far too long to be considered a rookie.

Ultimately, whether he wants to admit it or not, Solomon is in charge now, and he and his longtime colleagues on the city council will be held responsible for whatever happens.

They will have no one to blame but themselves.

Tuesday, May 7
wwkvoter

Hal, I could not have said it better myself - it is impossible for someone who was on the council for that long not to mention being a CPA and a lawyer which are very strong credentials, to claim ignorance at this point about transactions that he was required to participate in as an elected member of city government for all that time. If avedisian was playing games "fooling" the city council for all that time they should have figured it out.

The time to play amateur political games is not now, we need to get serious about how to pay for agreements that have already been signed, and then how to bend the cost curve downward in the future so we can sustain the finances of the city without asking too much (or too little) from our city workers.

There is a middle ground here for everybody that could make this work but enough with the games but start acting like adults and come up with a reasonable plan. And I don't mean Band-Aids to get from one year to the next either. A plan.

Tuesday, May 7
Hillsgrove Hal

wwkvoter, I really get the impression that Solomon, Merolla, and the rest of them think that we're all idiots, that we can't see through their obvious attempts to fool us.

Just in the last couple of months, I've seen them try to argue that they aren't a full-time city council; that they were misled by the last mayor; that they were given information but it wasn't accurate; and that they never thought to question the information they were given.

None of this makes them any more credible, nor should it give people any confidence that they can actually develop a coherent plan to fix the city's current problems.

As long as washing their hands of their own past behavior is their motive, they will keep trying to mislead us.

Tuesday, May 7
Scal1024

Wwkvoter your last comment was spot on. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse from ANYONE. I'm not sure why the Mayor would leak an agreement that both parties had agreed to keep secret until it was explained the their membership. The only reason that makes sense is that Solomon believes if the WFD rejects the deal, the public will look at the WFD as not helping to fix the problem "they created" (that is the perception he's trying to sell, not my opinion). I'm not sure the public is going to buy that excuse. The FD provides great services to taxpayers and like it or not I believe most taxpayers view them very favorably. That is what makes this issue so complicated for most.

I believe other commenters said it perfectly that there has to be a middle ground. A deal that is fair to taxpayers but also takes into account the working conditions and overall BS the WFD has to put up with. Anyone who isn't familiar with what these guys do watch Live PD on a Friday or Saturday night. They are constantly dealing with severely impaired drunks, drug addicts, overdoses and plenty of other crap that we normally wouldn't even consider. I'm not saying write them a blank check but that's not what they're saying either. The city needs to find a fair way to curb these long term costs and fast. Get back to the table, stop leaking agreements, stop playing politics and be prepared to make a deal. Enough is enough and it's time we get this done!

Wednesday, May 8
Happy

Is there anyone in Warwick who actually believes that the FF rank and file will ratify this? If so, please give me some of your Happy meds!

Wednesday, May 8
Flexi-Bull

It was overwhelmingly rejected today.

https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190508/warwick-firefighters-overwhelmingly-reject-contract-proposal

Wednesday, May 8
Patient Man

Looks like the rank & file will be looking for new leadership. How could leadership be so out of touch with the members? Looks like we're going to the mattresses.

Wednesday, May 8
Flexi-Bull

Patient Man, the union leadership is required to bring offers back to the body. This was the cities offer. The mayor offered a 3% pay cut and a pension plan we already won. Wasn’t a difficult decision. It had nothing to do with union leadership.

Wednesday, May 8
Patient Man

Flexi-Bull

From the article

"The two-year agreement retroactive to June 30, 2018 – at which time the last contract expired – offers no pay raises for either of the years and would implement the Tier II pension reform and resolve sick and vacation time payments."

So it wasn't an agreement, but an offer & Solomon was full of crap? Could this be why Carreiro wasn't available for comment? Seems like he should have come forward & called BS before the article was printed or added a comment so the online article could be edited.

Whatever happened in the room only the people there know. It seems the well is spoiled & mistrust on both sides won't help negotiations. The schools are already taking money from the pensions to fill a budget gap. Even with a max tax increase there probably won't be money for raises.

Thursday, May 9
Flexi-Bull

Yes, it was an offer. The president of the union cannot make a deal. There was an “agreement” to bring it back to the rank and file. It was determined that a 3% pay cut along with getting a pension (that was already awarded to the union) was not enough. If the mayor came out and admited that he has been spreading false info (FBI, illegal Side Deal scans etc.) released their audit on the Fire department then members would have been more in agreement. What incentive is there to work with someone who constantly smears you. And your comment about what goes on in a room should stay in that room. There is only one guy to blame for that. Who leaked the details to the paper? Political games are not what’s needed. We are certainly ready to help the city when the king wants to sit down and talk

Thursday, May 9
Joe K

Let’s see here, FD union wins arbitration ruling over the city unilaterally changing pension provisions . Now the mayor expects the union to pay for the city's mistake? If the union had not pushed the issue of the city not bargaining in good faith on this, then what would be next? Hours?wages?vacation time?People see the $$ amounts but there much more to it than the 2.whatever million that now needs to be put in the pension fund. Also don’t confuse the mayors words of saying there was an agreement between himself and the executive board . That’s not the way it works . I believe the only agreement from the union side was to bring it back to the rank and file to vote on. They should change the name from Warwick to Spin City.

Friday, May 10
Happy

Now I know why Solomon wanted to keep his dealer plates, it is easier to sell garbage to one person at a time vs a whole city.

Saturday, May 11