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Warwick firefighter contract stalemate ends with 3-year pact

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Warwick firefighters’ union overwhelmingly voted for a new three-year contract that the mayor’s office declared will save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mayor Joseph Solomon called the contract “cost neutral” saying it will save taxpayers over $450,000 in the first year alone.

The tentative deal also established what Solomon said was a “first-of-its-kind” trust fund to nibble away at the city’s Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) debt, involving mostly retiree healthcare costs.

“With the first-of-its-kind OPEB trust, this contract creates a template to forge a new way forward in helping to manage retirement benefit costs in the future,” Solomon said in a news release.

Local 2748 International Association of Firefighters President Michael Carreiro said the union “overwhelmingly passed” the agreement Thursday night.

Carreiro said the OPEB issue was an important one for union members.

“It’s a big deal. We want to know we’ll have healthcare when we retire and of course we need to maintain that for the current retirees,” Carreiro said.

As far as accepting the 0 percent raise for the first year, Carreiro said firefighters were able to balance that with the rest of the elements in the contract.

The new contract, backdated to July 1, 2019, does not include a raise for the current fiscal year, but boosts pay by 2 percent in years two and three.

The pact also cut four sick days, elimated one holiday and two personal days, and includes the implementation of a 24-hour shift schedule which “should lead lead to decreased overtime costs,” according to the city.

The agreement will now be submitted to the city council for ratification.

The previous contract expired July 1, 2018.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter@wbuteau.

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