Without any of the controversy that was generated in Boston, the Danvers firefighters union and the town settled contract negotiations recently that call for random drug testing. The union also obtained long fought for 24 hour shifts and a 2 percent raise in the 1 year contract that became effective July 1.
Bella Traveglini, Town correspondent
The Danvers firefighters union reached an agreement with the town that provides for 24-hour shifts, something they have sought for nearly 20 years. Town Manager Wayne Marquis on Friday, July 2 signed the 1-year contract with the 46-member union, said Stephen Delaney, the town’s human resources director.
The day-long shift is something the union has negotiated for many times before, but the town up to now would not agree to the terms, said acting Fire Chief Kevin Farrell. ”As a firefighter, I was always in favor of the 24-hour shift,” said Farrell. “Danvers is one of the only North Shore communities that doesn’t have it.” Farrell said the new 24-hour shift will reduce sick time since it allows firefighters to participate in family or social events without having to leave to start a shift at the firehouse. The daylong shift also means that no firefighter will have to work an entire weekend, and it provides for less frequent commute time for those who do not live in town, said Farrell.
The shift comes with a stipulation, said Farrell. Should the firefighters exceed a set sick time limit of six days a year, the town has the right to revert to the former 10 or 14 hour shift schedule with a 90-day notice, he said.
The new contract became effective on July 1 and will expire on June 30, 2011, said Delaney. As part of the agreement, the union will receive a 2 percent wage increase effective January 1, 2011. Firefighters will also be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, which is consistent with the one in place for other general government employees. The new schedule does not allow for overtime. Selectman Keith Lucy, who received word of the terms of the contract via email on Monday from Marquis, believes the agreement is good for the union and the town. ”We’ve got a 2 percent increase which is affordable, a shift that makes the guys happy, no overtime, random drug testing…it’s all good stuff,” said Lucy.
Farrell credits the union’s attorney who made a recommendation three months ago when talks began that facilitated negotiations. ”The union’s attorney suggested that both the town and union, given the economy, hash out a simple, short-term agreement without involving the attorneys,” said Farrell. “Both sides were able to come to terms fairly quickly with minimal disagreement.”
The new shift means that the average work week for firefighters is two 24-hour shifts, or 42 hours, said Farrell, which is constituent with the average hours worked under the 10 or 14-hour schedule.