York City, firefighters strike deal on five-year contract

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

After more than a decade, York City firefighters have a new contract with the city. 

Since 2006, the York City Fire Department has done its job without a collective-bargaining agreement because of ongoing disputes between the city and the local firefighters’ union.

But on Tuesday, Oct. 24, York City Mayor Kim Bracey announced her administration and the York Professional Fire Fighters Association Local No. 627 have hammered out a five-year agreement to run from January through the end of 2022.

The “monumental” agreement is based on a “common sense contract” that addresses the growing costs of the city’s public-safety pensions and benefit programs, with potential savings of $40 million or $50 million over the next quarter-century, Bracey said at a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the fire department’s Rex/Laurel Station.

Under the agreement, new hires after Jan. 1, will receive no health care benefits upon their retirement and pensions will be capped at 58 percent of their salaries, York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary said. 

York Professional Fire Fighters Association Local No. 627 President Fred DeSantis speaks about a new contract between the association and York City. Also pictured are York City Mayor Kim Bracey (center) and Business Administrator Michael Doweary. Jason Addy photo.

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The retirement age for the department’s firefighters will be 55, instead of 50, under the new terms, Doweary said.

In return for the firefighters’ concessions, the city expanded its residency requirement, allowing York City firefighters to live within 13 miles of the city. Since 2004, York City firefighters have been required to live in the city, Doweary said. 

Union firefighters will receive a 2.8 percent pay increase at the beginning of each of the contract’s five years, according to the agreement. 

Cost savings: The York City Fire Department replaces four or five retiring firefighters each year, so about half of the 56-person department will be replaced over the length of the new contract, Doweary said. That will enable the city to find significant cost savings on each new hire after the contract kicks in, he said.

The city’s last collective-bargaining agreement with the local firefighters’ union expired in 2006. Since then, York City firefighters have been operating under contracts and terms decided by attorneys and arbitrators, Doweary said. 

Local No. 627 President Fred DeSantis said the union’s members agreed to tighten their own belts for the benefit of York City’s taxpayers and to loosen the residency requirement. 

“I’m just glad that we got this done,” DeSantis said. “I’m really grateful to our membership (for) seeing how important it was to get this done.”

The York City Council must approve the new contract before it takes effect, but Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson said she doesn’t expect any issues with that. 

Ritter-Dickson said she would have preferred the residency requirement to have gone untouched, but it’s not big enough to dampen her support for the new contract.

“I think it’s a good contract,” Ritter-Dickson said. “If it works for them, it works for me.”