Details of tentative deal between New London, firefighters emerge

New London - A tentative agreement between the city and the fire union, which both sides have said would save 25 jobs in the fire department, includes extending the firefighters' contract by three years with 2 percent raises in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The two-page agreement, signed June 20 by Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and Union President Rocco Basilica, also would reduce mandatory staffing levels from 18 to 16 per shift and would eliminate a 2¼ percent raise in July and a 2 percent raise in January. The workforce also would be cut by nine positions as they become vacant.

In return, the city would allow union members to shift their retirement from a 401 savings account to the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System and would make a $4 million contribution into the account.

On Wednesday The Day obtained a copy of the document, which the city has refused to release, saying it is part of contract negotiations and protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The Day filed an FOI complaint Tuesday challenging the city's decision.

The agreement is no longer valid because the City Council failed to ratify it earlier this week.

The agreement also guaranteed no layoffs during Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio's four years in office and included a promise from the union to "fully support the city in the budget process and any referendum, should one occur."

Basilica refused to comment on the document Thursday. Glover was reluctant to talk about specifics, saying the city is still negotiating with the union, and she does not want to be perceived as breaking the ground rules.

"The only reason we're talking is because someone on the council leaked it (the agreement),'' she said. "If they don't want to respect firefighters and the administration, I can't make them. I'm upset they didn't keep their word. It had 'confidential' stamped all over the agreement and envelope."

She said both sides gave up something to reach the tentative agreement, and the city will not lose or gain financially, at first.

"Sometimes you have to look past your nose,'' she said.

The union tried to get into the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System twice before, she said, but the city rejected it. The reason the city considered it this time was because of low interest rates to borrow money and the age of the staff, she said.

"The city would save money on five to eight firefighters who would retire,'' she said. "And we don't plan to fill some of their positions."

The city's police officers are in the state retirement program.

Although both sides agreed not to discuss the tentative agreement until after it was approved by the City Council, bits of information came to light during a contentious council meeting Monday night.

Councilor John Maynard, one of three councilors who voted against the agreement, revealed that the city would need to bond $4 million to invest in the retirement fund for the firefighters. He is against borrowing any money.

On Thursday, Maynard said he was advised by the city attorney not to talk more specifically about the agreement. But he does not agree the document should be kept confidential. Keeping it from the public hampered him and other councilors from telling residents at Monday's meeting why they voted they way they did.

"That's what was terrible about that night,'' he said. "We weren't able to explain ourselves."

He added that if the tentative agreement is such a good deal, "the mayor and the union can say, OK, do not keep it secret.

"They can say, make it public,'' he said.


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