BOSTON — An independent arbitrator has ruled that Boston firefighters should accept random drug and alcohol testing as well as some limits on sick leave in exchange for a 19 percent raise over four years.
Monday’s decision settles a long and bitter contract dispute between Boston firefighters and the city. Officials have been trying to get the union to agree to testing since an August 2007 fire in which two possibly impaired firefighters died.
On The Council’s Decision
Boston Firefighters Local 718 President Edward Kelly said late Monday that the two sides are now bound under the law to support the arbitrator’s decision. He says firefighters look forward to getting this behind them and focusing on being the best in the profession.
Boston’s City Council still has to ratify the decision.
On Tuesday, City Council President Michael Ross told WBUR that the 19 percent raise will impede Boston’s ability to operate.
“Firefighters have to understand that’s going to affect them,” Ross said. “It’s going to affect their jobs, it’s going to affect their apparatuses, and it’s going to affect their firehouses. And it’s going to affect their city.”
Ross wants firefighters to consider other concessions in light of the arbitrator’s ruling, such as opting into the state’s health care system. He says 12 cents of every dollar in the budget pay for the health care of city employees.
“That’s unsustainable, it’s problematic, it’s ridiculous, and it’s cannibalizing our core services,” Ross said, of the health care costs. “And so the firefighters have to understand that that is their fight too.”