Auburn finalizes labor deals with police, fire department unions | Politics

AUBURN — The Auburn City Council has approved new collective bargaining agreements with unions representing fire and police department personnel.

Council members unanimously supported separate resolutions approving agreements between the city and the union for Auburn Police Department officers and the larger of two unions within the Auburn Fire Department. Auburn Fire Chief Mark Fritz told The Citizen Friday that another union, representing the AFD’s assistant chiefs, is still in negotiations with the city.

The new labor contracts run through June 30, 2026, and include yearly raises for employees in both unions. The starting yearly pay for police officers will be set at $55,900 and for firefighters at $45,000, both taking effect July 1.

Prior to the vote at the meeting regarding the agreement with the fire department, Councilor Jimmy Giannettino praised the AFD for all of its work, including administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of Auburn and Cayuga County and handling recent fires in the city, including fires at neighboring homes on Gaylord Street in late May. He also praised Auburn police before the vote on their agreement.

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The firefighter union approved their new agreement on Thursday, and the police union approved their agreement on Wednesday. The current agreements for both unions expire on June 30, with the newly approved contracts going into effect July 1.

City Comptroller Rachel Jacobs said Friday that the wage schedules for both unions were reestablished for the first year of these respective four-year contracts. Fire department members are set to get annual 3% raises for the last three years of the new agreement, while APD employees are poised to receive 4% increases annually for those last three years. 

Jacobs said both new agreements include employees paying 15% of the premium for their health plans, which is the same as the current contracts for both unions.

The city’s $43 million 2022-23 budget, approved by council at that same  meeting, includes funding for the pay increased expenses associated with both contracts.

The new fire department agreement includes a per-shift staffing minimum of 14 employees. Fritz said that represents a change from the current contract, with a minimum of 12 employees. He noted the National Fire Protection Association’s standard for career fire department staffing “states that 14 career firefighters should be on staff to handle a single family, two-and-a-half-story woodframe structure fire, so that’s part of the reason why we wanted to move in that direction” for minimum staffing.

Fritz said the 14-person minimum staffing level, including duty chiefs, provides “efficient and effective service to the citizens while providing an increased level of safety to the firefighters.” Since the Auburn Fire Department is at full staffing, Fritz said he believes that the AFD’s current staffing levels allows that 14-person minimum to be met without issue.

“I think this is a contract that takes care of the employees and allows the department to continue to provide the most effective and safest service to the citizens,” he said.

Shortly after the council meeting ended, Auburn Police Chief James Slayton mentioned the raise percentages, noting that the department wants to retain staff and has been trying to keep staff on for years amid losing several employees in the last few years, saying the department currently has five vacancies.

“Getting this contract done in a timely manner was a great thing for us as a department, because then that’s behind us. Members are happy with the contract, they ratified it last night, so they’re happy with it and we’re all happy with it,” he said.

Slayton said he has happy about the contract’s unanimous approval from council showed that the council knew both sides negotiated “in good faith” and said the negotiation process went smoothly.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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