November 3, 2011
Liberty Township firefighters will pay more for their health insurance and for all of their pension after a new three-year collective bargaining agreement was approved this week.
Township fire employees with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 3754 approached the trustees in April about potentially negotiating a new contract due to Issue 2, the Senate Bill 5 collective bargaining proposal, as well as the department’s long-term levy needs.
The previous contract was not set to expire until Dec. 31, 2012, but the firefighters wanted to work with the township on the best contract possible before Tuesday’s vote on Issue 2, said union president Chalaco Clark.
“This contract really shows that collective bargaining does work,” Clark said. “I think it’s fair, and definitely forward-thinking. Would everyone like to get more money in their pocket? Of course, but we’re in different times. I hope people look at this and say the Liberty Township Fire Department has been fiscally responsible.”
The contract, which affects 50 people including firefighters, lieutenants and one captain, increases the employees’ share of insurance premiums to 20 percent over the next three years (which is more than Issue 2 and its 15 percent) and requires the employees to pay for their police and fire pension fund.
“As a local government township, we’ve managed our money very well over the years,” said Liberty Township Fire Chief Tim Jensen. “Here’s a shining example of a cooperative atmosphere, sitting down across the table with labor, management and elected officials, and working through a very difficult subject.”
Currently, the firefighters pay about 3 to 4 percent of their insurance premiums (for health, dental and vision). Under the new contract, that will increase to 12 percent in 2012; 15 percent in 2013; 18 percent in 2014; and 20 percent in 2015.
In 2008, the township started a self-insurance program insuring the deductible using a combined health savings account (HSA) and health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), township fiscal officer Mark Gerber said.
Previously, employee deductibles were $880 with the township picking up the remainder up to $6,000 with the insurance company kicking in after that point. Now, the employees’ deductible raises to $2,000, so the township will be paying only $4,000.
“This represents a significant savings,” Gerber said. “It will help the township over the long haul.”
Employees will also be able to participate in a health point system that will help decrease their deductibles. Different ways to qualify include not using tobacco products and having specified healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Gerber said the pension pickup occurred in the mid-90s in lieu of wage increases. The township currently pays 10 percent of the employees pension. The employees will start to pick up that pension starting at 2 percent in 2012; 5 percent in 2013; 7.5 percent in 2014; and 10 percent in 2015, effectively paying for all of their pensions.
The contract negotiation also helps the township better know how to prepare for an upcoming fire levy with the current one expiring at the end of 2012, Gerber said.
“Extending the contract allows us to know what the costs will be over the next three or four years,” Gerber said. “That’s good in taking our case to the public.”
The agreement was completed with staff, elected officials and employees, requiring about 3 to 4 percent less attorney fees than the last contract, Gerber said. Lawyers didn’t become involved until the end of the process, and only then to ensure that the contracts are legal.
The Liberty Township Fire Department serves the township, as well as Powell city and southern Delaware County.