Webster Groves, firefighters union reach new contract

Webster Groves and its union firefighters have reached a resolution in their longstanding dispute over minimum staffing requirements and overtime costs. The new contract, which expires in 2027, allows the city to reduce the number of firefighters required on duty per shift while also giving firefighters a 23% pay raise over the next four years. This agreement covers 33 of the 38 firefighters serving as paramedics in the suburb, affecting its 24,000 residents.

The union had previously sued the city in March after negotiations to replace the expired 2022 contract had reached a standoff. However, a court-supervised mediation ultimately led to a contract that was recently approved by both the union and the city.

The new contract requires the city to staff 12 firefighters per shift, but only to pay overtime to keep 10 firefighters in case of illness or absence. This change has already resulted in over $100,000 in savings in overtime costs for the city.

The contract also retains longstanding benefits, including a 2% annual cost-of-living increase, a step pay plan, a $1,000 annual stipend, and a yearly “longevity” bonus for employees at the top of their pay scale.

Overall, both parties seem satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations. John Youngblood, a spokesman for Local 2665, expressed excitement about moving forward with the city, while Webster Groves Mayor Laura Arnold highlighted the greater predictability in staffing costs and the competitive compensation for firefighters.

The new agreement appears to have resolved an outstanding grievance against Webster Groves that was under court arbitration, with the courts ordering the union and city to split legal costs. The exact cost to the city is currently unknown.

The story of the resolution between Webster Groves and its union firefighters is a testament to the value of open communication, negotiation, and compromise in addressing labor disputes. Both parties have come together to find a solution that benefits both the city and its dedicated firefighters.

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