POUGHKEEPSIE – During a lengthy council meeting Monday night, Poughkeepsie Common Council members voted 6-0 to approve a contract with the city’s professional firefighters, members of IAFF Local 596. The firefighters had been working under a contract that had expired on December 31, 2020.
The new agreement between the city and the firefighters is a three-year deal that includes a total salary increase of five percent over the length of the deal. Firefighters will receive a 2.5 percent increase for 2021, 1.5 percent in 2022, and one percent in 2023.
The deal also brings the members in line with other unions representing city employees with regard to medical insurance for retirees. Those leaving after 20 years of service will be eligible to surrender accrued leave time in exchange for an increase in medical insurance contribution from the city, with a minimum of 75 percent, up to 100 percent.
Union President Nick Bucher said the increased medical insurance for retirement is substantial given the rise in cancer rates of firefighters. “We are very grateful to the administration for finding a way to meet our request for an increased medical insurance contribution from the city in our retirement. With the ever-growing epidemic of job-related cancer in the fire service, the peace of mind of having low to no-cost, reliable medical coverage after we leave this amazing career has much more value than a larger raise ever could have.”
When it came time to vote on Monday night, two of the councilmembers had left the meeting. Councilwoman Flowers left to respond to the scene of a shooting in her ward and Councilman Randall Johnson did not offer a reason for his departure.
The firefighters ratified the contract Thanksgiving week. “After we ratified the MOA by an overwhelming majority of our membership we were thrilled that the common council did so unanimously. We are always grateful for their continued support,” Bucher said.
Mayor Rob Rolison, himself a former volunteer firefighter and retired Town of Poughkeepsie detective was grateful “that a fair and equitable agreement was reached with our firefighters. The administration and the firefighter’s union worked very hard to get this done. I am pleased the common council agreed with this work and approved the contract.”