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Fire and Rescue Cleans Up With New Drug Testing Incentive

Fire and Rescue Cleans Up With New Drug Testing Incentive

The Boston Herald via YellowBrix

May 29, 2010

Top Hub fire brass could reap tens of thousands of dollars over the next decade for taking random drug and alcohol tests, padding their pay and straining city coffers for years to come, a City Hall watchdog warned.

“It’s a runaway cost, and every year it will get to be more and more,” said Matthew Cahill, executive director of the Boston Finance Commission.

The Herald reported yesterday that nearly 150 high-ranking Hub fire officials are due a lump sum windfall if the City Council approves the controversial pay pact, a 19 percent increase worth an estimated $74 million.

Cahill said upper-echelon fire brass will pocket thousands more than what the rank-and-file get – all at taxpayer expense.

The Hub’s approximately 15 deputy fire chiefs could reap at least $42,000 each over 10 years, compared with $29,000 for a regular firefighter, according to internal policy documents and a Finance Commission analysis.

The same holds true for other bigwigs. The city’s nearly 54 district fire chiefs could be due about $37,000 each, while about 74 captains could get nearly $32,000.

Also gaining are some 200 fire lieutenants, who, under the contract, would be pushed into the $100,000-a-year club. They, too, could see about $30,000 over 10 years from the drug-test benefit.

“I was shocked by the arbitrator’s award given there’s 10 percent unemployment,” Cahill said.

It’s so expensive, Cahill said, because the award is 2.5 percent of salary and not a flat fee. As salaries rise, the bonus will, too, Cahill added.

“It’s hard to judge what it will cost, but it will be extremely costly to taxpayers,” Cahill warned.

The City Council holds hearings next week on the costly contract. Councilors are divided on whether to fund it, while Local 718 chief Edward Kelly defends the pay pact as affordable.


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