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City Council unanimously approves CBA, Columbia Fire Department joins critical illness pool


The Columbia City Council on Monday unanimously approved a Collective Bargaining Agreement with Columbia Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 1055.

The agreement includes different benefits for firefighters, including joining the critical illness pool. The MFFCIP is an insurance benefit that provides financial assistance for 17 different types of cancer.

According to the council memo, the city would join the pool at the $200,000 coverage level. This means firefighters could receive up to $200,000 in financial assistance per cancer diagnosis while they're employed and up to 15 years after being employed.

The council memo also states that the city and firefighters' union will agree on education for prevention and early detection of cancer.

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network reports firefighters have a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population, which is why IAFF Local 1055 President Zack Privette said he's been working for years now to join the pool.

"This is the financial resource that is needed because we've been exposed to these chemicals for so long and are more likely to get cancer than the general public," Privette said.

To join the pool, the city would pay an annual rate of $109 per full-time firefighter. Privette said all roughly 175 firefighters will be included in the pool, which means the city would be paying about $19,075 per year to the pool.

How the pool works is when a firefighter receives a cancer diagnosis, they will submit a claim to the pool and begin receiving monthly financial help within ten days. Privette said this would somewhat offset the workers compensation process, while being quicker for firefighters and cheaper for the city.

"We want to make sure that they're covered, that they have the resources necessary to take care of these diagnoses when they happen," Privette said. "They're painful not only physically, but financially on families that have to deal with it. So, we're really excited that the city's agreed to take this on and finally sees the value of doing that for our employees."

MFFCIP Program Administrator Joseph DePaepe said the critical illness pool currently covers about 3,500 firefighters across 110 agencies in the state. It has paid out about $700,000 in benefits since it first began two years ago.

ABC 17 News previously reported in the fall that the union and the city did not see eye-to-eye on joining the pool. Privette said the success of the statewide program and the membership of other fire departments, such as Jefferson City and Springfield, have contributed to being able to get this in front of the city council.

City spokesperson Sydney Olsen said in an email the city does not want to provide any further comment until after the City Council can discuss the agenda item Monday.

Meanwhile, Ward 5 City Councilman Don Waterman said in an email, "I think it's a good thing to become part of this pool. A benefit for those in need and a recognition of the hazardous conditions firefighters can be exposed to."

If passed, the city will continue funding the pool through the end of 2025. Privette said they will then begin the bargaining process again.

"It's our goal to make sure that this becomes a permanent benefit for our guys at some point," Privette said.

Privette said after the vote, it would likely take a couple of months before the membership would become official. He said the city would have to adopt a new ordinance and define a manager of the system, among other things.

According to the council memo, the city and the Columbia Professional Firefighters Union agree education regarding early detection and prevention of cancer in fire service will be in line with the Columbia Fire Department Cancer Reduction.

Monday's Collective Bargaining Agreement also includes other benefits, including a 2% pay increase for eligible members.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Jazsmin Halliburton

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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