Collingswood Cuts New Deal with Firefighters
Like many labor negotiations of the day, new hires are going to find their salary and benefits reduced as the borough offsets the costs of salary increases within the 2 percent cap.
Collingswood firefighters are getting a raise.
At its monthly commissioners meeting Monday, the borough introduced an ordinance that would formalize a pay increase for Collingswood firefighters through 2015.
In terms of numbers, it is structured identically to that negotiated by the Collingswood Police Department: retroactive to 2012, department staff will receive annual pay increases of 1.5 percent, 1.5 percent, 1.75 percent and 1.75 percent through 2015.
Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis said those gains were earned at the cost of some concessions for future hires, but that they don't affect current employees as much.
"We gave a lot of concessions back a year ago to try to avert some layoffs," Davis told Patch. "All the contract negotiations are to keep the staff as they are now or to add employees."
The biggest change, he said, is a roughly $5,000 difference in starting salary for new hires, which takes effect January 1, 2014. New employees will also accrue 12 fewer hours of vacation time at the outset, and their sell-back of unpaid leave hours will be capped upon retirement.
Sick leave for new hires will also be half of that afforded current employees, and for the first three years of their employment, new hires will only receive an individual health insurance benefit.
"They have to buy into it if they want family coverage," Davis said; "They’re still going to contribute to their health insurance."
Davis said that since beginning his tenure as fire chief, he has sought to drive efficiencies in the department. A recently announced shared services agreement with Pennsauken for fire inspections is one such initiative, as is the department plan to refit its emergency vehicle versus buying a new one—work that he said should be completed soon.
"I think the town as a whole and each department has done a great job to keep services up" amid cost concerns, Davis said.
In per capita terms, the Collingswood Fire Department is the second-busiest in Camden County, and its EMS services are the third-busiest, he said.
"That includes the major townships and cities," Davis said. "We’re one of the busier fire and EMS."