By Mikaela Porter | Hartford Courant | Feb 28, 2019 | West Hartford
A new four-year contract for West Hartford’s 88 firefighters will reshape the department’s focus to manning staff for paramedic calls, town officials said this week.
The new contract includes annual wage increases, changes the minimum manning requirements and schedules, and increases the health insurance deductible. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2018 and runs through June 30, 2022.
West Hartford’s town council voted in favor of the new contract along party lines Tuesday night, with all six Democrats in favor and the three Republicans voting against.
Democrats and Republicans said the new contract paves the way for the department to refocus on paramedic and emergency response services. In 2016, the town ended its contract with American Medical Response for advanced life support services, began a town-managed program and hired firefighter/paramedics to replace retired firefighters.
Under the new contract, annual wages will increase each year by 2.25 percent, accounting for roughly $175,000 in payroll for the 2018-19 fiscal year, $179,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, $183,000 for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $187,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The contract increases the number of accrued sick leave days to six, documents show, and paramedic stipends based on the number of years a paramedic has worked for the town.
Currently, the department uses five apparatus across five stations, with four firefighters to an apparatus. Under the new contract, three firefighters will man four apparatus across the five stations and two firefighter/paramedics will work a lighter duty shift, with a focus on advanced life support work.
Currently, town firefighters work three 10-hour daytime shifts, followed by three days off, then three 14-hour night shifts and three days off. Under the new contract, firefighters will work a 24-hour shift, have 48 hours off, 24 hours on-duty and then 96 hours off.
In-network health insurance deductibles would increase individual plans from $1,500 to $2,000, and increase family plans from $3,000 to $4,000.
The contract also requires all promotions take place within 120 days of a position becoming vacant and sets up a $25,000 fund for fitness equipment and training — $20,000 of which is funded by the town and $5,000 from the union.
Mayor Shari Cantor said town, fire department and fire union leadership and partnership matters.
The fire department union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1241, voted on the new contract language on Feb. 13, union president Joe Robidoux said. He said it was a “successful agreement” between the town and union.
Robidoux said the new contract will make the West Hartford fire department a “lighthouse employer again and attract higher-caliber employees.”