Whitehall News

Whitehall, city's firefighters cement three-year deal

Contract offers raises, increases health insurance costs, co-pays


Whitehall City Council members, at their meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, were expected to adopt emergency legislation approving a new three-year contract between the city of Whitehall and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 1729, representing the Whitehall Division of Fire.

The new contract would provide a total salary increase of 6.25 percent over the three years, but employees agreed to increases in health insurance premiums and deductibles.

The last contract expired Dec. 31.

An ordinance approving a new three-year contract -- running from Jan. 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2016 -- was introduced Jan. 14 at council's committee meetings.

It was expected to be adopted as an emergency, thus becoming immediately effective after its passage at the Jan. 21 meeting, council President Jim Graham said.

The new agreement provides a base salary increase of 2.25 percent in 2014, 2 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in 2016.

Employees agreed to increases in health insurance premiums as well as deductibles and co-payments.

These concessions, coupled with the savings realized from an employee health and wellness center, should prevent the city from an increase in its costs for employees' health insurance in 2014, said Lynn McNabb, director of human resources for the city of Whitehall.

"The union recognized the reality and was open to working with the city to try to help contain costs in this area," McNabb said.

"Insurance costs continue to increase, but the city remains committed to pursuing strategies to mitigate these rising costs."

The city budgeted $2.4 million in 2014 for health insurance, virtually identical to the amount budgeted in 2013.

Monthly insurance premiums for single coverage increased from $55 in 2013 to $65 in 2014. Premiums will rise to $80 in 2015 and $95 in 2016. Monthly premiums for a family of four were $80 in 2013. They will increase to $130 in 2014, and rise again to $145 in 2015 and to $160 in 2016.

Co-pays increased from $10 in 2013 to $15 in 2014. Co-pays will be $20 in 2015 and 2016.

Individual in-network deductibles increased from $150 in 2013 to $200 in 2014. Deductibles will be $225 in 2015 and $250 in 2016.

Family in-network deductibles were $600 in 2013 and will increase to $650 and $700 in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In other action at the Jan. 14 meeting of council committees, council members discussed the possibility of no longer requiring residents to register before speaking during council meetings.

Council might amend the policy when members adopt rules of council later this month, Graham said.

Graham said council members have considered the possibility that the requirement might deter or intimidate some people who might otherwise speak before council.

Council rules place a three-minute limit on those who address council.

"We might allow for the flexibility to reduce it to maybe two minutes if there was an instance where an unusually large number of people wanted to speak about something," Graham said.

Councilman Robert Bailey was selected last week as president pro temp and was set to be formally elected during the Jan. 21 council meeting.