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Buffalo firefighters get raises, shift changes in newly-approved contract

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Eileen Buckley / WBFO News

Buffalo firefighters have a new labor contract, running through 2025. It includes raises but is expected to save the city millions.

The Common Council approved the new contract Tuesday. While firefighters will get a series of raises over the length of the pact, Mayor Byron Brown said it will ultimately save the city $32 million.

Both sides say the work shifts will change to a 24-hour on/24-hour off schedule, described by Local 282 President Vincent Ventresca as the industry standard. Ventresca said the pact gives the same benefits and changes across the board, not different provisions for younger firefighters.

A major change is for firefighters who are injured on duty. The new pact sets up a system where they can return on light duty, perhaps in the repair shop or on the truck delivering air tanks. They would be working, but not quite ready for entering burning buildings.

Under the contract, workers who seek to retire on disability and have their time in could be subsidized to retire. The pact continues mostly generic pharmacy prescriptions for firefighters, with delivery by mail

Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said the pact establishes labor peace over a long period.

"It gives us a lot of flexibility, organizationally. It gives us some stability," Renaldo said. "It gives us a chance to see the out-years, budget-wise, personnel-wise. It gives us some better and more management supervision tools."

Renaldo said since 2013, the administration has added over 300 new members to the Fire Department. He describes his team as "really young right now," but the 24-hour shifts will help better integrate them and get "them a little more experienced."

"Over a 24-hour period, they will experience many more different incidents, both on the fire side and the EMS side and just about any other incident you can think of," he said. "So over a 24-hour period with the new schedule, the experience factor will go up."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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