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Walsh, union reach tentative deal on contract

Firefighters must vote; terms are not disclosed

Boston firefighters are seen battling an eight-alarm blaze on Lexington Street on Wednesday.

Bill Brett/Globe staff

Boston firefighters are seen battling an eight-alarm blaze on Lexington Street on Wednesday.

The union representing Boston firefighters and Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration announced on Saturday that they had reached a tentative labor deal, but neither side would disclose terms.

In a joint statement, Walsh and Richard Paris, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718, trumpeted the negotiated agreement, which union members must vote to ratify before it goes to the City Council. A ratification vote will be held within the next two weeks.

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The Walsh administration and Paris declined to discuss terms of the deal ahead of the vote. Paris said in a phone interview that he believes his members will approve the package.

He said that Walsh “sat down like he said he would do in his campaign and negotiated a contract that is fair to the citizens and the city and also to the firefighters. I give the mayor a lot of credit.”

Walsh, a former labor leader who received strong union support during last year’s mayoral election, said in a statement that he was “extremely pleased” that his team and the union had reached a tentative deal.

“All parties came to the table with mutual respect and open minds, willing to reach a compromise that serves the best interests of the City of Boston — for firefighters and taxpayers,” Walsh said.

Saturday’s announcement came days after two Boston police unions representing superior officers and detectives voted to accept labor deals that included pay hikes over a six-year period, including retroactive payments, with an estimated total price tag of $34 million.

Those deals are now subject to City Council approval. Like the firefighters, the two police unions avoided arbitration.

The last time firefighters avoided arbitration was in 2001, Paris said. The union’s last contract was finalized in 2010 after a controversial arbitration award that was later scaled back.

City officials said at the time that the final five-year deal would give most firefighters raises worth 20.5 percent.

More recently, the City Council in December approved an arbitration award for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the Police Department’s largest union, that gave the officers a 25.4 percent raise over six years at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $87 million.

That deal angered Walsh’s predecessor, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who warned that a precedent would be set giving public safety unions every incentive to go before arbitrators, who “always give them more.”

The patrolmen’s union has slightly more than 1,400 members, while the unions for superior officers and detectives, whose new raise packages are pegged at the lower $34 million pricetag, represent roughly 360 members.

Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a fiscal watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofits, said the superior officers and detectives’ deals were comparable to the patrol officers’ arbitration award with “slight variations.”

As for the new firefighters’ contract, Tyler said, it remains to be seen whether costs will be contained.

“Politically, it may have been in everyone’s best interest on both sides to show that they could negotiate a contact without having to go to arbitration,” Tyler said. “But without the details, we won’t even know how successful the administration was in keeping costs down” and negotiating management reforms.

Maria Cramer, Michael Levenson, and Andrew Ryan of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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