North Adams, firefighters union sign off on 1 percent raise


NORTH ADAMS — The union representing the city's firefighters has agreed to a 1 percent raise for 2015 and 2016.

The City Council on Tuesday signed off on a new one-year collective bargaining agreement with the North Adams Fire Department that includes a 1 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2015. The deal also calls for a 1 percent raise beginning on July 1, 2016.

The firefighters agreed to the same 1 percent raises last negotiated by police officers, Department of Public Works employees, and non-union employees, according to Mayor Richard Alcombright.

"I thank our Fire Department for their hard work and dedication to the city," Alcombright wrote in the letter to the council.

The council also signed off on an adjustment to the city's compensation plan to bring the North Adams Transfer Station's scale operators' pay in line with the state's increasing minimum wage. The scale operators will now earn $10 an hour.

The fire department and other adjustments amount to a total increase of about $25,000 to the city's payroll, according to Alcombright.

Councilor Robert Moulton, Jr., noted that as the minimum wage increases, city workers who used to make well more than the minimum wage are now barely earning more than the minimum. In a way, he said, they are being penalized.

Councilor Keith Bona said while he didn't see it as punitive, he understood where Moulton was coming from and shared examples from the private sector of newly hired workers making the same wages as those with experience.

"The minimum wage is taking such a big jump — in three years it's going up three dollars — and typically most people would not be getting those kinds of raises if they were at the bottom of the pay level," Bona said.

The increasing minimum wage did boost the wage of the Department of Public Works' seasonal works, Alcombright noted, but it forced the city to cut 1.5 positions in order to afford the additional cost.

"That just resulted in less young people, for instance, that we could employ in the summer," Alcombright said.

Moulton also questioned the length of the collective bargaining agreement. Alcombright agreed a three-year agreement would be better, but said he utilizes one-year contracts because it's difficult to know what the city will be able to afford three years from now.

The council voted unanimously to approve the contracts.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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