Warren OKs contract extensions, wage increases for fire, police

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published January 12, 2022

 Keeping the Warren Fire Department fully staffed will allow the city to save on overtime wages, which has been necessary to keep all the city’s firefighting equipment in service and all its stations open.

Keeping the Warren Fire Department fully staffed will allow the city to save on overtime wages, which has been necessary to keep all the city’s firefighting equipment in service and all its stations open.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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WARREN — Local union firefighters and police officers will enter 2022 with contract extensions on the books. Sources said the amended deals will allow both departments to recruit and retain the employees that will keep them fully operational.  

The contract amendments were ratified by unanimous votes of the Warren City Council on Dec. 21. Included were wage increases designed to make the departments more “competitive” regionally. The amendments also provide for cadet programs as a recruitment conduit, an investment the city hopes will lead directly to service in the respective departments. 

“We’re very happy with it. The city and the union came together on this and worked hard together to make what you’ve seen,” said firefighter/paramedic Joe Schehr, president of the Warren Professional Firefighters Union Local 1383. “We wanted to be able to accomplish two big things for the union: to be able to recruit and retrain firefighters. We’ve struggled with that for a long time.

“With this agreement, we’re going to be able to do that. Now that we’re competitive again in the market, we’re going to be able to bring new firefighters in and retain the firefighters we have,” Schehr said. 

According to the tentative agreement approved by the union and later by the City Council, the deal extends the existing contract for one more year, through June 30, 2024. A second wage tier was eliminated, putting all members of the union on the same pay scale. 

Wage hikes vary by job classification and years of service, but as an example, the annual starting salary for an entry level firefighter/paramedic would increase from $57,467 in 2021 to $58,329 in 2022 and $60,079 in 2023.

Schehr said while Warren had been at the bottom of the pay scale for departments in Macomb County, the new agreement would put it solidly in the top five. 

“It’s going to encourage people to stay,” Schehr said. “The wage agreement is really going to solve some of the issues we’ve been dealing with for a long time.”

Filling vacant positions will allow the city to save on overtime wages, which has been necessary to keep all of the city’s firefighting equipment in service and all of its stations open.

The agreement also establishes a training coordinator position within Warren Fire Department administration. The coordinator will oversee the apprenticeship program officials hope will bring candidates to the department for paid education and a part-time salary, training with the department and, eventually, full-time employment at the increased firefighter/paramedic wage.

At the Warren Police Department, wages for union employees were also set to increase across the board on Jan. 1. As outlined in the tentative agreement, now approved by the union and the City Council, annual compensation for entry level officers was increased from $57,027 in 2021 to $57,882 in 2022 and $59,329 in 2023. 

The amended police agreement also includes the one-year contract extension, through June 30, 2024. 

As further agreed, the Warren Police Officers Association and the city will discuss expansion of the department’s current police officer candidate program during the life of the extended contract. 

“This new agreement will allow us to continue to hire top talented police officers and bring our current officers up to a rate deserving of the job they do,” said officer Mike Sauger of the Warren Police Department, president of the WPOA and the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police.

“I want to thank them for all the hard work they do every day,” Warren City Councilman Garry Watts said before the vote was taken. “There’s been a lot of overtime, especially on the fire side, more than the Police Department. But the Police Department is extremely busy, as well. 

“The men and women of both departments are doing an outstanding job of protecting this city, and I thank them for that,” Watts said. 

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