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Posted on: March 7, 2023

City of Webster Groves Imposes Last, Best Final Compensation Plan for Fire Union

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The Webster Groves City Council voted on Tuesday, March 7 to implement the city’s last and best final compensation plan after a year of unsuccessful negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665, the union representing the Fire Department.  

The Council declared an impasse on contract negotiations after extending a last and best final offer on Friday, February 24. On Friday, March 3, the City received a counteroffer with financial provisions that the City was unable to meet without additional budget reductions to other departments. As a result of reaching an impasse with the IAFF, the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement was terminated. 

The City’s financial and staffing offers were presented in good faith on behalf of the City, but a solution could not be reached. The City had made several offers that included instituting a new longevity pay for firefighters and captains that had reached the top of their ranges and a new one-time stipend commensurate with years of service that would have provided many firefighters with stipends upwards of $4,600.  Additionally, the City offered to fund firefighter coverage in the state of Missouri’s new Critical Illness Pool, providing enhanced cancer care.   

Ultimately, the City and the IAFF could not reach an agreement on the level of minimum staffing and safeguards to prevent unchecked overtime spending. The previous collective bargaining agreement had minimum staffing requirements beyond other municipalities and fire districts in the region and did not include any stopgap measures that gave the City the authority to address overtime spending. The Fire Department Fiscal Year 2021 overtime budget was overspent by $62,757.9 and in Fiscal Year 2022, the overtime budget surpassed the allocated budget by $324,581.95 (227 percent of budget). Overtime costs for fiscal year 2023 are on track to swell beyond the budgeted amount. The continued rampant overtime expenditures were unsustainable for the City.  

In the absence of reaching an agreement, the City’s last and best compensation offer has been implemented effective immediately, setting forth a generous benefit package and measures to control the rampant overtime costs.  The offer includes an average 6 percent increase in pay for each union member every year as a result of the embedded 2 percent COLA increase for each fiscal year 2023, 2024, and 2025, the continuation of a step program in the pay range, and a $1,000 stipend in each fiscal year for every union member. The average annual 6 percent salary increase that the fire department staff will receive far exceeds compensation levels for other non-labor City employees, that received a 2 percent COLA in fiscal year 2023.  

The implemented pay plan also includes Longevity Pay, a new compensation tool. This type of pay will provide senior firefighters and fire captains with 1/8 of one percent of their annual salary for each year of service with the City. This pay tool is a mechanism to recognize long service with the City. Additionally, the City is providing cancer insurance coverage in the Missouri Critical Illness Pool to the fire personnel, which is an additional insurance benefit that is unavailable for other City employees.  The compensation package also maintains the City’s holiday pay stipend for City holidays, provides a uniform stipend that grows at 4 percent each year, and increases pay rates for personnel serving in the acting captain role.  

“It’s important to remember that the Council and City Manager are residents here too,” said Mayor Laura Arnold. “The offer was presented with a focus on not only the financial security of the City of Webster Groves but also ensuring that the fire department will be able to continue to provide excellent service to the community. We support the fire department, but we must also support the other departments and city operations.” 

“While I wish both parties could have arrived at an agreement, the implemented compensation plan provides a number of financial benefits for the firefighters while maintaining best practice staffing standards,” said Dr. Peoples, City Manager.  

The implemented compensation plan is estimated to cost $11.166 million over the three years of the offer and will increase the personnel services budget for the City in FY23 by $445,357.55, not including any overtime costs or other incidental pay matters. The compensation plan impacts 6 Fire Captains and 27 Firefighter/Paramedic employees of the City of Webster Groves.  

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