After nearly a year of negotiations, Brunswick town officials and the local firefighters’ union agreed to a new contract that was ratified Monday.

The Town Council unanimously approved the three-year contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2022, and extends to June 30, 2025. The previous contract expired June 30, 2022.

The contract includes cost-of-living increases and a higher starting wage for new firefighters but also higher health insurance premiums.

“This was a long negotiation, but I think we can be pretty happy with where we landed,” Town Manager John Eldridge said. “It’s not an inexpensive package, but I think it’s where we need to be.”

The contract includes an immediate 8% cost-of-living increase, an 8% hike in the second year and a 4% hike in the third year. The starting salary for the most basic firefighting position increased from $19.72 an hour to $21.30, and other pay levels were increased accordingly.

Fire Chief Ken Brillant said the pay raises put the Brunswick Fire Department at the level of similarly sized fire departments in Bath, South Portland and Scarborough.


“I’m hoping that it helps with recruitment and retention,” Brillant said.

The Brunswick Fire Department has 41 firefighting positions; three are vacant.

Fire investigator and union member Josh Shean, who has served on the department for 18 years, said five firefighters have recently left for better pay or over scheduling complaints. He said the market for new firefighters is competitive.

“There’s a shortage of volunteer firefighters in other neighboring communities (like) Durham and Raymond,” Shean said. “Other neighboring communities that used to survive on volunteers have had to start hiring full-time firefighters. That has made the applicant pool dwindle.”

Shean said some of the firefighters who have left were in the middle of their careers with five to 10 years of experience, leaving four firefighters remaining with that amount of experience.

“When you lose that middle ground, you start to lose that institutional knowledge,” Shean said. “You lose some of your experience and knowledge of the town. … We’re just looking to get that back.”


He said the higher pay will help attract new firefighters and appease current ones. Eldridge agreed.

“Brunswick was lagging in the pay scale at the entry level,” Eldridge said. “We’ve got good people. We want to keep them. We want to attract good people, but the market is incredibly competitive.”

Eldridge said the fire department’s health insurance benefits included in the last contract were more generous than surrounding communities, so they were lowered to offset the wage increases. In the new contract, the town will pay 80% of health insurance premiums instead of 85% included in the last contract.

“It wasn’t adversarial,” Eldridge said of the negotiations. “We were trying to work to where we needed to get in a somewhat affordable fashion.”

“This was a very long process, very productive and probably the most collaborative in a long time,” Shean said.

Councilor David Watson said he supported the pay hikes.

“It speaks to keeping the best responders that we can keep for the citizens,” Watson said. “Our main purpose is public safety.”

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