Maumee’s Historic Agreement With Firefighters Union Creates Nine New Jobs To Staff Full-Time Department

Four members of the Maumee Fire Division were on hand following Tuesday morning’s Maumee City Council meeting to celebrate the adoption of the new collective bargaining agreement between the city of Maumee and Local 4536 of the International Association of Firefighters that will enable the Maumee Fire Division to become a full-time department. Pictured (from left) are Deputy Chief Mike Potter, Deputy Chief Jim Dusseau, Mayor Jim MacDonald, Fire Chief Brandon Loboschefski and MFD paramedic and Local 4536 president Sam Johnson. MIRROR PHOTO BY MIKE McCARTHY

BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — History was made bright and early on Tuesday morning as Maumee City Council held a special meeting to approve a resolution ratifying, adopting and authorizing a three-year collective bargaining agreement between the city of Maumee and the International Association of Firefighters Local 4536 (IAFF).

The agreement paves the way for the Maumee Fire Division to become a full-time fire department for the first time in its history.

Terms of the agreement are being implemented over the next few months and will take full effect in January, allowing firefighters and paramedics to provide round-the-clock fire and EMS protection for the residents of Maumee.

During the remaining months of this year, Maumee Fire Division officials will be looking to hire as many as nine full-time firefighters/paramedics – a new job position that has been created under the terms of the agreement.

The passage of the 5.6-mill levy by Maumee voters last November provided the financial foundation for the agreement, but it was patience and dedication at the bargaining table that were the key elements required to make the historic agreement possible.

Negotiations between IAFF Local 4536 and the city administration began last November, shortly after Maumee voters passed the levy, which provided the financial resources to help transform the fire division from a largely volunteer organization to a full-time department.

Prior to the levy, the city maintained a staff of full-time paramedics bolstered by volunteer firefighters who were paid for individual fire calls that were answered from their home or place of employment.

The transformation of the Maumee Fire Division from the on-call model to a fully manned, 24-hour department took much patience and focus during several months of negotiations.

Determining how to handle the pension system was a major hurdle that had to be overcome to reach the agreement. 

In the end, it was agreed that the current paramedics would remain in their existing pension plans while a separate pension plan would be offered for those who serve in the new full-time positions of firefighters/ paramedics.

Paramedics who did not wish to take on firefighting duties were protected under their existing pension system. Those paramedics who wish to take on the extra firefighting duties will be covered under the new pension plan.

Following months of bargaining, city officials and IAFF members signed a tentative agreement last Thursday, June 27. 

Maumee City Council held a special meeting at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday of this week to approve Resolution 013-2024, which officially authorized the agreement.

“This agreement is an example of how labor and management can come together in an effort to provide better services to our residents,” stated Maumee city administrator Dr. Patrick Burtch following Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The complicated nature of changing to a round-the-clock service should never be understated, and I am proud of the professional manner in which the men and women of the Maumee Fire Division and representatives of the IAFF local negotiated in good faith,” Burtch said.

“We look forward to continuing to provide exceptional service that the citizens of this community deserve,” Burtch added.

Sam Johnson, a MFD paramedic and president of Local 4536, played a major role in the negotiations with the city and said he was happy with the agreement.

“The citizens will soon see their hard-earned tax dollars funding the full-time department they voted for by hiring additional firefighters/paramedics to increase staffing numbers,” Johnson said.

“The union is honored to have your support moving forward and will continue to maintain the highest standard of care for our residents,” he added.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Johnson spoke to The Mirror and offered some insight into the negotiating process with the city.

“With the passage of the levy for fire and EMS services in November, we began working with the city to figure out how to get full-time firefighters into our contract when we previously didn’t include firefighting at all,” Johnson said.

“We had to rework our entire contract,” Johnson noted. “We had numerous meetings with the city over the past couple of months and we were able to generate the position of full-time firefighter/paramedic.”

“We are also retaining the paramedic position as we have some of our more senior employees who aren’t able to switch to the new pension system based on their current pension plan,” Johnson explained.

“So, we were able to work with the city to retain them in their current pension and have no detriment to them as far as their retirement goes, while also allowing other employees to transition and create new positions for our additional personnel,” Johnson said.

He said that as older employees retire, new employees will be hired under the new pension plan.

Johnson stated that presently, the Maumee Fire Division has 15 full-time paramedics and one fire inspector.

“We’re going to transition to have 24 full-time firefighters/paramedics and still retain the fire inspector,” Johnson said. “We are generating nine new positions, but we had a retirement a few months ago, so now it will be 10 people that we will be hiring.”

Johnson said that he expects the hiring process to begin as early as next week.

Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald was jubilant after Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s an historical moment for the city of Maumee that our citizens approved a levy back in November of 2023 that has allowed us to pursue a full-time fire division in the city of Maumee,” the mayor stated.

“Not only that, but we are going to have firefighters/paramedics. We are going to have dual roles, which is going to be a very efficient way to run a fire division,” MacDonald said. “You will have somebody that is certified in two avenues that you can utilize in the firehouse, either to fight fires or to serve on ambulance runs.”

“I think it also goes in hand with the city not going along with the county agreement, because it now puts us in a very efficient spot to where we can serve our citizens and also be available for mutual aid runs for anybody that lives around here,” MacDonald added.

“I think it’s a great thing for the city of Maumee and I am proud to be a part of it at this juncture of our history, that we are able to move our fire division in this way.”

The mayor also had praise for the bargaining process, saying, “It was a good negotiation, and it was a good agreement for both sides. It’s a win-win.”

MacDonald added that there is a memorandum of understanding that will fill the gaps in the coming months until the agreement officially takes effect on January 1, 2025.

This will allow Maumee Fire Division officials sufficient time to interview and recruit new firefighters/ paramedics immediately in order to get the department fully staffed by the end of the year.

Maumee Fire Chief Brandon Loboschefski was thankful for the agreement.

“First of all, we are extremely grateful to the community for their support. They have stepped up and supported the fire division for many years,” Loboschefski said.

“The passage of this contract and agreement was monumental and historic for Maumee, moving us forward with the full-time fire division staffing,” the chief stated.

“It’s the first time in history. Past chiefs have always discussed it and consulted with the city, knowing that this was something that was going to need to be done eventually. It just takes a long time,” Loboschefski said.

The chief shared that roughly half of the existing paramedics will transition to the new role of firefighters/paramedics and will participate in the new pension plan.

The chief also said that he doesn’t expect the hiring process to be easy. 

“We are facing the same challenges that every community is facing and that is a lack of qualified candidates. The police and law enforcement fields are seeing that, too,” Loboschefski noted. 

“We want to continue to be a very marketable department to work for,” Loboschefski asserted.

“We are going to continue to work with our neighboring jurisdictions on mutual aid and future projects,” the chief added. “What those are right now, we don’t know, but we all have to help each other because we are all getting busier.”

(Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Maumee public information officer Nancy Gagnet, who contributed to this report.)

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