By Amanda Ensinger
The Franklin Township firefighters have agreed to a new contract with the township. The union for the township’s firefighters recently agreed to a three-year contract that will offer staff raises after nearly a decade of stagnate wages.
According to Franklin Township Assistant Fire Chief Chas Adams, the IAFF Local 1441 has been negotiating with the township for the past two months on a fair contract for fire department employees.
“We are the lowest paid fire department in the county by 24 percent,” Adams said. “By the time this contract goes into place, our firefighters will not have gotten a raise in nine years.”
Adams said that because of state cuts to the local government fund and three failed township fire levies, the union previously didn’t ask for raises because they just wanted to focus on ensuring the jobs of their members.
“They knew the funds weren’t there, so instead of asking for pay increases, they focused on keeping jobs,” he said. “Now that the budget is straight, we want to pay our staff what they deserve.”
According to leadership, the department can now financially afford to give employees raises because of the recent fire levy that was passed, as well as other cost saving efforts fire department leadership have found.
“Since October 2015, we have gotten over $2.1 million in grants,” Adams said. “We also have saved over $200,000 just from changing vendors.”
The new agreement will give fire department union members a 5 percent pay raise the first year of the agreement, a 4 percent pay raise the second year and 3 percent pay raise the third year.
While this is classified as a cost of living wage, Adams added that firefighters will now be paying more for their health insurance.
“They are paying more for these benefits than previously, so they will lose around 2 percent of that pay increase in new insurance costs,” Adams said.
However, fire department union members will see a slight increase in paid time off. The new contract will give them approximately 24 hours more of paid personal days. However, according to Adams, these days cannot be cashed out or carried over; they either use them or lose them.
The union said the employees of the fire department deserve these benefits because of their dedication to the township.
“The members of Franklin Township Professional Firefighters Union, IAFF Local 1441, have endured decreased funding, increasing healthcare costs and staffing cuts over the past nine years. It’s been rough on everyone at the Franklin Township Fire Department,” said Ron Delozier, firefighter and president of IAFF Local 1441 in a press release. “This contract is a step in the right direction to improve our members’ livelihood. It gives our members a fair, comparable wage for our area. It also allows the department to stay within its budget, securing a brighter future for all of us. This agreement would not have been possible without the excellent working relationship shared between the members of IAFF Local 1441, the fire department administration and the Franklin Township trustees.”
Adams added that these benefits would help them retain employees, something that has been an issue throughout the past decade.
“Our turnover rate has been extremely high because people keep leaving to go to higher paying departments,” he said. “We have lost a lot of great firefighters. Our hope is these changes will allow us to retain firefighters and will reduce our turnover.”
The Franklin Township trustees also agreed this is the right thing to do for the fire department and will benefit the entire township in the long run.
“I believe that our firefighters and first responders deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for the lifesaving work that they do for our residents and the community at large,” said Aryeh Alex, Franklin Township trustee. “Having a strong and competitive union contract guarantees that we are able to reflect those values in our actions while compensating our firefighters fairly. I was honored to join my fellow board members as we unanimously voted to stand with our firefighters in support of this new contract.”