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Harrisburg firefighters agree to concessions

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Harrisburg’s union of firefighters has agreed to a variety of concessions estimated to save the city about $1.6 million after talks that were described as “heated” by Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

Papenfuse did not play a direct role in the negotiations, as the city is still under receivership. But, he met twice with the firefighters in an effort to convince them to approve the new contract.

“It was at some times heated, and I think the important thing to note here today is that a tremendous number of sacrifices are being made,” said Papenfuse. Without the agreement he said, “The city would stay mired in the financial difficulties that had gotten us first into Act 47 and then into receivership.”

Union members voted 38-15 last Friday to approve the deal, which goes through 2017. Under the contract, the firefighters receiver no pay increase for 2013 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016, pay increases by one percent. And, in 2017, pay increase by 2 percent. Firefighters had previously agreed to 3 percent pay increases from 2013-2016.

Firefighters also will contribute to health insurance costs.

Minimum staffing on a shift will drop from 16 firefighters and a battalion chief to 14 firefighters plus the battalion chief.

“And, as we’ve seen over the summer, it’s possible that it could mean a temporary closure of a station,” said Glenn Sattizahn, president of Local No. 428 of the International Association of Firefighters. “There wasn’t really a whole lot of compromise. We were, for the most part, forced into this.”

Starting pay for new firefighters will drop by $20,000 to between $32,000 and $36,000.

Papenfuse said had the union not agreed to a contract, it would have left a roughly $1.6 million hole in the city’s budget.

“The city would stay mired in the financial difficulties that had gotten us first into Act 47 and then into receivership,” said Papenfuse.

Fire Chief Brian Enterline said the budget calls for hiring an additional 14 firefighters. There are currently 63.

City solicitor Neil Grover said the agreement will be presented to City Council some time in the spring for approval.