By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The city and its firefighters have reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract.
Mayor Joseph Peterson and City Council members on Sept. 14 approved the agreement with International Association of Fire Fighters Local 356 for the period from Feb. 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2012, upon the recommendation of Todd Drysdale, director of finance and administrative services.
The tentative agreements provide for a yearly 2 percent wage increase and a revision of the cost-sharing formula for active employee health insurance coverage. A physical fitness incentive program also will be implemented.
Traditional retiree health care for new hires will be eliminated and health savings accounts will be established instead.
Employees may choose the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Community Blue preferred provider organization, Blue Care Network health maintenance organization or the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Community Blue PPO. The plans include hospitalization, dental, vision and prescription drug coverage.
Retiree hospital insurance for employees hired after Jan. 31, 2009, will have a retiree health savings plan. The city and each participant will contribute 2.5 percent of pretax base wages to each participant’s RHS account.
The city will be 50 percent vested after five years of service, and 100 percent vested after 10 years of service. The city’s contribution will be fully vested at age 55, regardless of years of service. The tax-exempt RHS plan replaces the traditional employer-paid health and prescription coverage offered to retirees hired prior to this date.
Fire Chief Michael MacDonald will implement a physical fitness program to identify the level of fitness for each individual fire employee and then will measure their progress.
The program objectives are to reduce sick time; enhance productivity and mental alertness; promote department morale and cohesiveness; and improve tactical readiness.
The fitness program also hopes to develop a higher level of professionalism through positive physical appearance, and to improve employees’ quality of life by bringing about physical and mental changes.
Another goal is to encourage employees to make a conscious effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle through diet.
Public safety agency officials say they spend large amounts of money maintaining the equipment used to protect and assist their employees in the challenging and dangerous profession of public safety. However, officials say, the condition of the employees themselves is being overlooked.
Voluntary physical fitness tests will be administered twice a year at six-month intervals. The test will involve push-ups, sit-ups and a 1-mile run to test, measure and score body strength, endurance and cardiovascular capacity.
Three levels of incentive awards will be given to employees who meet or surpass the minimum standards. Fit bronze level will represent employees who meet the minimum requirements for each test. The six-month period award would be $200.
Fit silver would indicate an advanced fitness level, and would be recognized with a $350 award every six months. Fit gold would be reserved for those who attain a superior fitness level that exceeds the department’s expectations.
The employee must meet that level in all of the categories of the test; the incentive award would be $500 every six months.