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Ashland firefighters agree to new contract

ASHLAND — Firefighters have joined three other groups of city government employees in agreeing to contracts that don't include cost-of-living adjustments.

Two employee groups that had contracts that weren't up for negotiation declined to forgo the raises, known as COLAs, that are meant to keep wages in line with inflation.

On Tuesday, the City Council ratified a new labor agreement with the Ashland Firefighters Association that included no COLA for this year.

The agreement also includes no COLA for 2010 unless a consumer price index in January 2010 shows that the cost of living went up at least 4 percent between January 2009 and January 2010. Firefighters could get a COLA of 3 to 5 percent in the third year of the contract based on any consumer price index increases.

Firefighters also agreed to go to a $200 deductible for health care, up from $100.

City workers such as department heads and secretaries who aren't represented by unions, technical and clerical workers and police officers already agreed to forgo COLAs. The technical and clerical workers and police officers had contracts that were up for negotiation this summer.

City officials had asked laborers and electrical workers to voluntarily give up 3.5 percent COLAs that are in their contracts this year. Their contracts were not up for negotiation.

The laborers and electrical workers elected to keep receiving the 3.5 percent COLAs that were previously bargained into their contracts.

The city did budget money this year to cover the $126,180 cost of paying for those increases.

However, the city did not budget the $440,500 it would have cost to give COLAs of 3.5 percent to firefighters, police officers, technical/clerical workers and employees who aren't represented by unions.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.