New Brunswick

Saint John firefighters nearing new contract

Saint John may be nearing a new contract with its firefighters as the city tries to finalize wage agreements with its workers.

Saint John may be nearing a new contract with its firefighters as the city tries to finalize wage agreements with its workers.

Saint John council had asked all city unions to agree to a two-year wage freeze and reduced pension benefits to help deal with the $129-million pension deficit.

The Saint John Firefighters' Association is the last hold-out among the city's unions, after the police union reached an agreement last week.

Paul Stackhouse, the president of the Saint John Firefighters' Association, said he's hopeful a deal with the city can be reached within a couple of weeks.

"Right now we're still talking and we're hoping to find a resolve to the pension issue," Stackhouse said.

"We're just going to keep plugging away and try to find something and see where we go from there."

Stackhouse declined to discuss any details about the contract negotiations with the city.

But the president did say the union's position hasn't changed from its earlier stance that the proposed minimum retirement age of 60 is too old for firefighters and that it's unfair not to have any disability protection for new hires.

The Saint John Police signed a 30-month deal last week that included the two-year wage freeze.

Saint John's budget crunch comes as it copes with its pension shortfall.

In November, the city said it was at risk of having assets seized if it does not make an overdue $5-million payment on its pension fund.

Saint John's pension deficit is increasing by about $750,000 a month.

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