Possible breakthrough in firefighter contract talks: Union proposes one-year freeze on drug-testing pay increase
UPDATE: Administration to City Council: Just say no to firefighters; that would create a tidal wave of other unions demanding similar drug-testing deals. City council to administration: With all due respect, you suck. Councilor Ayanna Pressley: "There's some sort of conflicting shell game going on here."
Local firefighters union President Ed Kelly this morning offered to freeze for one year a 2.5% raise awarded by an arbitration panel in exchange for drug testing.
City councilors Mike Ross and Steve Murphy immediately congratulated Kelly for making the "significant concession."
"I think, frankly, it's extraordinary," Murphy said.
Kelly said this would save the city more than $4 million - on top of another $8 million the city won in health insurance and sick-leave changes an arbitration panel granted the city.
Because the council does not get involved in collective bargaining, the ball now goes into Mayor Tom Menino's court; councilors said they want administration officials back before them today to discuss the issue.
Councilor John Connolly blamed the whole arbitration mess on Dean Mazzarella, mayor of Leominster and management member of the arbitration panel. "I think you guys have been held out unfairly on this issue," because other city unions have gotten increased pay in exchange for drug testing, he said, adding he no longer believes a word Mazzarella said.