Barre fire and ambulance reaches tentative contract settlement
BARRE — It’s not a done deal yet, but negotiators for the city and its fire and ambulance department reached a tentative settlement during a bargaining session Friday.
According to City Manager Steve Mackenzie, details of the multiyear contract proposal were reached during a face-to-face meeting that spanned five hours and may mark the end of sporadic negotiations that played out over the past seven months.
“We have a tentative agreement,” Mackenzie confirmed during a brief telephone interview Saturday.
According to Mackenzie, union leaders hope to present the contract proposal to their members this week even as he prepares a “briefing packet” to bring the City Council up to speed.
Assuming the 17-member bargaining unit ratifies the proposed contract this week, Mackenzie said the council would be in a position to do the same at its Feb. 26 meeting.
At that meeting, Mackenzie said, he would likely meet privately with councilors to discuss the proposed contract, but the ratification vote would be in public. Once the council approves the contract the document will be released and its details will be public.
Mackenzie said nailing down those details was challenging.
“It was a difficult negotiation for both sides,” he said.
Talks broke off late last year and a federal mediator got them back on track late last month, but they seemingly stalled again during a follow-up bargaining session Feb. 7.
Mackenzie said he asked for one more meeting, the union agreed, and the two sides were able to find a mutually acceptable middle ground Friday.
“I think both sides really wanted to settle,” he said, noting neither side got everything it wanted.
“Like every good negotiation you end up leaving some stuff on the table,” he said.
Mackenzie, Chief Tim Bombardier and Scott Cameron, the city’s labor lawyer, were joined at Friday’s negotiations by firefighters Jeff Cochran, Gary Sheridan and Mike Charbonneau and the union’s Burlington lawyer, James Dunn.
The city’s union firefighters have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30. That one-year deal included a “wage freeze,” though eligible firefighters were awarded annual “step increases.”
Assuming the tentative settlement is approved, the financial aspects of the deal — most notably pay raises — are expected to be applied retroactively to July 1.
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