A Note from Laura Arnold, Mayor of Webster Groves
On March 7th the City Council unanimously approved a resolution that implements a compensation plan for the Fire Department. After more than a year of negotiations with Local 2665, the union representing the Fire Department, we reached an impasse. In order to implement this compensation plan, the Collective Bargaining Agreement was terminated.
The members of the City Council wished for a fully bargained agreement. However, that is not where we are. In spite of that, this compensation plan for our fire department staff is the best compensation ever adopted by this City for any employee group and allows our City and its staff to move forward with certainty about the future.
Information about the new compensation plan is provided for you here along with information about our current staffing model, which continues to schedule four firefighters/paramedics to our fire engine and ladder truck. The plan does allow for some flexibility if two of the 12 firefighters are not available for their shifts. We remain one of only two departments in the area to assign four members to an apparatus during regular shifts.
I hope you find this information helpful.
- When did the City Council declare an impasse on contract negotiations?
After more than 12 months of negotiations, Council declared an impasse on contract negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665, the union representing the Fire Department. This occurred in a public meeting on March 7, 2023. Because of reaching an impasse with the IAFF, the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement was terminated.
- Why did the City Council declare an impasse on contract negotiations?
City Council and City Leadership determined that Local 2665 has engaged in surface bargaining and negotiated in bad faith. Both parties have submitted offers that were rejected, but repeatedly the City has experienced the union taking steps backward to re-open items and issues that had already been agreed upon.
- What does impasse mean?
Impasse is a legal term, which indicates that contract negotiations have stalled and are no longer productive. This does not mean that the City will not continue to meet and confer with the Local 2665 on conditions of employment and in furtherance of the constitutional protections afforded to public sector employees.
- What does this mean moving forward?
The Webster Groves City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, March 7 to implement the compensation portion of the last, best and final offer, made by the City. As a result, Fire Department members received pay adjustments and cost of living increases as outlined below. If the IAFF desires to restart negotiations in good faith, the City will negotiate with the Fire Department on staffing and all other conditions of employment. The City has maintained from the start of negotiations, and continues to assert, any agreement must include mechanisms to contain the rampant overtime spending.
- Why were these staffing changes suggested?
Staffing changes were needed due to the uncontrolled overtime costs. Even with the changes to Webster Groves staffing, we are one of two municipalities in the entire St. Louis region that schedules staff at 12 per shift. The daily staffing of 12 per shift has not changed from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement minimum staffing requirements. The factor that has changed is that now when 2 staff are absent, the Fire Department will operate with 10 on shift.
Previously, the City did not have flexibility in staffing, resulting in paying overtime to “staff up” to 12 per shift. The new implementation retains NFPA best practices and in the event that 2 staff are absent, the City has the authority to keep the staffing level at 10 to address overtime spending.
The Fire Department Fiscal Year overtime has been:
- Fiscal Year 2021 overtime budget was overspent by $62,757.90.
- Fiscal Year 2022 overtime budget was overspent by $324,581.95 (227% of budget).
- Fiscal Year 2023, overtime costs are on track to swell beyond the budgeted amount.
The continued rampant overtime expenditures are unsustainable for the City. The City values the Fire Department but must also be fiscally responsive to the needs of all Departments.
- What are the staffing changes that were proposed in the contract?
The City of Webster Groves continues to staff each shift according to the best practice standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for ladder trucks. The City of Webster Groves has committed to always scheduling 4 Firefighters on a ladder truck. The only time there will be fewer than 4 Firefighters on an engine (not the ladder), is if 2 staff are absent during a shift. If only 10 staff members are available due to sick/vacation leave, workers comp, FMLA, or Military leave, staffing will be reduced to 10 persons on shift. There will never be less than 10 persons on shift in the fire service in Webster Groves; overtime will be paid to staff members on-call or willing to report to maintain service.
- How does this staffing structure compare to neighboring municipalities?
These staffing adjustments will put us in line with our municipal neighbors. The chart in the next question outlines how we compare to other Fire Departments in the Mid-County Area.
- Will this impact the community's safety?
As the below table indicates, Webster Groves is staffed to safely meet the community's needs. The safety of the Firefighters and the preservation of life and property is the City’s highest priority and will continue to be maintained.
City Total Staff Daily Full Staff Daily Minimum staff Webster Groves 38 12 10 Affton 40 12 10 Brentwood 24 7 5 Clayton 43 13 11 Kirkwood 55 17 15 Ladue 32 10 8 Maplewood 21 7 5 Richmond Heights 23 7 6 Rock Hill 10 3 3 Shrewsbury 19 6 5
*Daily minimum staffing is current as of 3/10/2023.
- How does this affect our insurance rating?
The Webster Groves Fire Department maintains a Class 2 ISO rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). This is the second highest possible rating for fire protection services. Four areas are evaluated to determine this rating: Emergency communications, water supply, fire risk assessment and community risk reduction. The limited and occasional staffing adjustments will not affect the ISO rating.
- What pay changes are included in the implemented compensation plan?
The last, best and final offer that the City implemented on March 7th includes the following:
- A minimum of an annual 6 percent increase in pay for each union member in the step program.
- Annually pay increases based on the step-plan found in the Expired collective Bargaining Agreement (refer to the Compensation Chart Fiscal Years 2023 – 2025).
- A $1,000 stipend in each fiscal year for every union member.
- Longevity Pay; a new compensation tool geared to retain senior ranking Fire staff. This type of pay will provide senior firefighters and fire captains with 1/8 of one percent of their annual salary for each year of service with the City.
- The City’s holiday pay stipend for City holidays will be maintained.
- An annual uniform stipend of $1,122 that increases by 4 percent each year.
- Increased overtime pay rates for personnel serving in the Acting Captain role.
- Additionally, the City is providing cancer insurance coverage in the Missouri Critical Illness Pool to the fire personnel, which is an additional insurance benefit that is unavailable for other City employees.
All told, the compensation for Fire Fighters over three Fiscal Years (FY 23, FY 24, FY 25) is over 11 million dollars.
- How does the Webster Groves Fire Department pay align with neighboring municipalities?
In 2021, the City of Webster Groves hired an outside consultant to conduct a compensation and classification study. While the study did find that some positions within the City were underpaid, the Fire Department positions were found to be in line with others in the area, especially municipalities. You can view the current compensation of our Captains and Firefighter paramedics on our website here.
- Is there a public safety hiring freeze within the City of Webster Groves?
There is not a hiring freeze within the City of Webster Groves. We continue to recruit and hire excellent employees in both the Police and Fire Departments.