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Mayor Ballantyne Announces New Union Agreement Increasing Pay & Benefits for Fire Alarm Unit

Improved wages and benefits codified in new union contract

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne on behalf of the City of Somerville has reached a new agreement with the union representing its Fire Alarm Operators for a new contract, providing improved wages and benefits for a valued set of City workers.

The City's Fire Alarm Unit provides 24/7 dispatch for the Somerville Fire Department, and its contract is negotiated by Somerville Firefighters Local 76. The new three-year contract will cover the City’s 2024 fiscal year (FY24: July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024), as well as FY2025 and FY2026.

A package of improvements for existing employees start with a 9% cost of living increase over the life of the contract (equaling a 3% cost of living increase each year of the contract retroactive to July 1, 2023). Additional stipends and step increases will further build wages and include new base wage increases for employees with 10- and 20-years of service, as well as additional increases to existing longevity stipends that recognize length of service.

In addition, the City has agreed to a significant increase of 24% to the starting salary of new employees that better aligns the City’s starting salary for these positions with those seen in the market, which will make Fire Alarm Unit jobs more competitive and help improve the City’s recruitment and retention efforts for these positions. This change for new hires brings their salaries more in line with the pay scale that applies to existing fire alarm operators.

“We approach all of our labor negotiations with a deep appreciation for the work our union employees do for the people of Somerville, and we try to make sure to sign contracts that allow all city employees to move forward together,” said Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “The Fire Alarm Unit answers calls that save people’s lives. It provides an essential service, and this new contract adds important compensation and benefits improvements so that Fire Alarm service can continue to be a rewarding career.”

A significant new benefit introduced in the contract is an eight-week paid family and medical leave program. This means employees requiring leave for needs such as family health issues or maternity and paternity leave would have access to 8 weeks of paid leave above and beyond standard sick, vacation, and personal time. The new benefit will reduce the likelihood that employees will face unpaid leave if their available accruals are not sufficient. The Fire Alarm Unit is the second bargaining unit to enter the program, joining the City’s custodial workers.

The new contract also adds an additional week of vacation when an employee reaches 25 years of service, and compensation for the Juneteenth National Holiday.

Finally, the new agreement establishes a new work schedule designed to increase staffing flexibility along with a rolling vacation day accrual system, which will help the City better track and account for this benefit.

The Fire Alarm Unit has voted to accept the new contract, leaving only the City Council to fund the cost of the contract before it takes effect.

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