OCEAN CITY – Officials last week took the first steps in formalizing amendments to a contract between the Mayor and City Council and the town’s firefighter-paramedics union.
Last week, the council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance to formally adopt changes to the recently negotiated International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4269 contract.
The amendments increase the pension plan contribution amount from 8% to 9% for certain participants, provides a temporary Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) for certain participants, and extends retiree health care benefits to IAFF members hired after 2013.
In January, resort officials signed an agreement to extend the existing IAFF contract through June 2027. Typically, the town and union collectively bargain for a new IAFF contract every three years. However, the informal extension bypassed that process.
“Some time ago, President [Ryan] Whittington approached the Mayor and Council and the city manager about amending the existing IAFF contract,” City Manager Terry McGean said in January. “We all decided the best approach was to look at it a little more informally instead of locking ourselves in the conference room with two lawyers.”
Amendments approved on first reading last week include an increase in the pension plan contribution amount from 8% to 9%. The change would apply to each participant hired on or after July 1, 2023, who is covered by the IAFF agreement.
“Each Participant hired on or after July 1, 2023, who is not covered by a collective bargaining agreement (i.e., currently the Public Safety Command Staff), shall make contributions to the Plan equal to 8% of the Participant’s Compensation until his or her Termination Date,” the amendment reads.
The changes also provides a temporary DROP program and extends retiree health care benefits for those IAFF members hired after 2013.
The three amendments come with an estimated cost of $320,000 over a period of five years.
Whittington told officials in January the union and the town were able to bypass the lengthy collective bargaining process by negotiating in good faith.
“Our fire department benefits from productive partnerships between our government leaders and its employees …,” he said at the time. “The cooperation leads to more effective and efficient delivery of emergency services. It comes from, and continues, an increasingly harmonious relationship between all of those charged with keeping residents and visitors safe. This cooperation arises from a union that steadfastly works to identify the most pressing issues for its membership and to identify solutions to those issues.”