The city of Delaware and the union that represents its firefighters last week signed a new, three-year contract after months of mediation and arbitration.

The city of Delaware and the union that represents its firefighters last week signed a new, three-year contract after months of mediation and arbitration.

Delaware City Council on Monday, May 9, voted 7-0 to approve a resolution accepting the result of the arbitration between the city and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 606. The two parties released a joint announcement the same day stating both "look forward to continuing to work diligently together to serve the citizens of Delaware."

The union represents the Delaware Fire Department's full-time employees who hold the rank of firefighter, lieutenant and captain.

City Attorney Darren Shulman said the contract would have remained in effect even if council had voted against it.

"Technically, that (arbitrator's) decision is binding, so we don't have to vote on it; however, in the past we have voted on it just to create a clear record as to why the contract is adopted," Shulman said.

The last contract between the city and the union expired March 31, 2015, and the parties had been unable to reach a new agreement until recently. Arbitration followed multiple meetings with the State Employment Relations Board and a fact-finder report released in November.

The two sides submitted their final offers on eight unresolved contractual issues to the arbitrator in late February. Nels E. Nelson acted as the conciliator in the case.

One unresolved issue stemmed from a disagreement over raises.

The union argued in favor of annual 2.25 percent wage increases effective the first day of April for 2015, 2016 and 2017. The union pointed to scheduled 3, 3.5 and 3 percent raises for Columbus firefighters in 2015-17 and higher salaries for firefighter/paramedics in nearby Liberty Township and Westerville to back up its argument.

The city offered 2 percent wage increases for each of those years. The city argued that "while the difference in the wage offers may seem small, the impact over the life of the agreement is substantial."

The arbitrator selected the city's offer of 2 percent annual raises, calling it "generally consistent with wage increases in the area and around Ohio." He wrote that while raises in Columbus were much larger, it is "not customary to compare the wages of a city of 35,000 with one of 789,000."

Over the life of the new contract, the base pay range for a firefighter will grow from $54,940-$68,840 retroactive to 2015 to $57,160-$71,62 in 2017. The base pay range for firefighter/paramedics will grow from $57,688-$72,282 to $60,018-$75,202 over the life of the contract.

The arbitration also settled disagreements over contract language related to overtime, promotions, time off and vacancies, among other issues.