Boston firefighters must accept random drug and alcohol testing and some limits on sick leave, and in return will receive a 19 percent raise over four years, a labor arbitrator has decided, officials with knowledge of the decision said today.
The raise is a significant pay bump that would dwarf the raises of other city unions over the same period.
The decision is something of a victory for the firefighters union, which had been asking for pay and benefits equivalent to a 21 percent raise, and puts the city of Boston, which had initially offered a 14 percent salary increase, in a precarious negotiating position with other unions, such as those representing teachers and police. Both got 14 percent raises in their contracts and now could demand another 5 percent. Many city labor contracts are up for renewal.
The arbitrator's decision ends a bitter contract dispute that had stalled for nearly three years over the drug and alcohol testing, which the city wanted but firefighters had resisted without getting a significant pay increase in return. The firefighters union endured significant criticism for its resistance after autopsy reports showed that two firefighters who died in a restaurant fire in August 2007 may have been impaired.
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