Getting Paid Extra for Doing What You’re Supposed To

Howie Carr and Adrian Walker don’t usually agree on much, but they, and most other sentient individuals, are appalled by the 19 percent increase an arbitrator last week awarded to the Boston firefighters union. They, and not the arbitrator, are dead right.

The increase, awarded retroactively over FY ’07, ’08 and ’09 and arriving for some as lump sum checks for $20,000, is Local #718’s compensation for agreeing to submit to random drug and alcohol testing. The rest of us, as a Boston Herald editorial aptly pointed out, are rewarded for showing up sober and drug-free by getting to keep our jobs. The firefighters insist on getting paid extra, even in difficult economic times, for just doing what they’re supposed to do. As the Herald editorial said, “public works employees who drive trucks under a federal commercial driver’s license undergo testing as a matter of law.” What was the arbitrator smoking?

What’s worse, this won’t be the end of it. For one thing, the firefighters’ contract is up at the end of June. Doubtless they’ll be back at the trough, wallowing in the public coffers and asking for more and more. And it won’t end there because, if the firefighters get such lavish increases, the police union will surely be quick to compete.

The arbitration is binding on the union and the Mayor, but the City Council doesn’t have to vote to fund the agreement. This is going to cost the city a cool $74 million, and, as the Mayor notes, the city can’t afford it.

Council President Michael Ross will be tested here. How brave will he be to stand up to the union and protect the interests of all the city?

As spelled out in Adrian Walker’s column, the arbitrator wrote, “I conclude that the city’s proposal to skim the frosting, pocket the cake, and avoid paying the fair, reasonable and affordable value of the meal is a hound that will not hunt.” Huh? And, in computing the cost, the arbitrator comes in at half what the Mayor projects because he stupidly fails to include the cost of back pay and benefits.

As I see it, the arbitrator can’t write, he can’t count and he doesn’t use common sense. Unless the City Council stands tall, that adds up to an unspeakable financial disaster for the City of Boston.
– Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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