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Hoping For Contract Approval, Firefighters Offer Concession

The president of the Boston firefighters union has proposed an 11th hour contract concession to city councilors weighing a controversial pay raise awarded by an arbitrator.

Standing in front of Boston City Council Thursday, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718 President Edward Kelley said the city's firefighters are offering to freeze a 2.5 percent pay raise they were supposed to receive at the end of the month. That is just part of the pay increases awarded by an arbitrator.

Thys: Concession Turns City Councilhttp://audio.wbur.org/storage/2010/06/news_0603_firefighters.mp3

Following Kelley's announcement, firefighters gathered at City Hall stood up and applauded.

The last-minute concession received a similar, if quieter, reaction from City Council President Michael Ross.

"I believe that this is a significant concession on your part," Ross told Kelley.

The Menino administration is questioning the possible compromise. Spokeswoman Dot Joyce says the administration has had no negotiations with the union over contract changes and wants to make sure any deal is final, instead of being subject to further negotiations. She says the delay in the 2.5 percent raise should count toward a fifth year of the contract, even though the arbitrator awarded a four-year deal.

Councilor John Tobin said there were not enough votes to ratify the contract without concessions, but he thinks the pay raise freeze will secure sufficient votes.

Ross had said the award could be rejected if the firefighters union didn't make concessions to lower the estimated $74 million cost of the award, which the arbitrator said was warranted in exchange for a mandatory drug and alcohol testing.

Tobin said the firefighters were ready to make the offer Wednesday night, but wanted to wait until Thursday so that they could have more attention.

The concession was revealed on the second day of public hearings on the firefighters' contract. Thursday's hearing, which got underway midday after lengthy closed-door meetings, follows Wednesday's contentious, 10-hour hearing.

This program aired on June 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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