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City council rejects fact-finding for firefighters union

Law Director Jeff Limbian said the city had several issues with the contract, but one of the main issues was the proposed pandemic bonus.
Youngstown City Hall
(Photo by William D. Lewis | Mahoning Matters)

YOUNGSTOWN — City Council members voted Tuesday to reject a fact-finder’s recommendation for a new three-year contract with the International Association of Fire Firefighters Local 312. 

City Law Director Jeff Limbian said the city and the union will go back to the table, while Local 312 Union President Charlie Smith said the union had meetings on Monday and Tuesday to determine the membership's next steps. 

Fact-finder James Rimmel issued his report for the three-year contract between the city and Local 312 on April 28. 

The impasse began when the union argued the city was in its “best financial health in decades” and that other jurisdictions similar to Youngstown were paying their firefighters higher wages than city firefighters received.

As a result, the union demanded a 3 percent general wage increase in each year of the agreement. They also demanded the current wage scale be collapsed to increase the starting wage and reduce the amount of time it takes to reach the maximum wage rate. 

The city argued that it still faces a severe structural deficit and that its current “good financial health” was the result of the infusion of one-time money from workers compensation rebate and CARES Act fund. 

The city offered annual wage increases of 1 percent per year that is effective the first full pay period following Jan. 1 of each year of the contract. 

Rimmel recommended the city provide a 1 percent general wage increase starting Jan. 1, 2021 as well as an additional 1.25 percent increase for the pandemic bonus to be received in June 2021 and March 2022. 

The current starting salary for a firefighter is $25,470. Rimmel recommended the new starting wage increase to $26,532. 

Rimmel recommended the number of steps for a firefighter to reach maximum wages be reduced from 10 to 9, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 

All council members at the meeting voted to reject the fact-finder's recommendation. Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st ward, was not present.

Councilman Mike Ray, 4th ward, filled in for President DeMaine Kitchen. 

“Just because we did reject it, there are some good points, and I hope the administration can move forward with successful negotiations,” Ray said. 

Smith said the union would issue a statement today (Wednesday) on the union’s decision.

Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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