Sunday, December 9, 2007

Firefighters and city near agreement


After months of negotiations, the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara City Firefighters Association have reached a tentative labor agreement that is expected to be ratified by both parties by Tuesday.
The three-and-a-half year agreement will bump up base salaries for firefighters twice a year through July 2010, among other pay and benefit changes.

“It’s a fair compromise and it’s a generous compromise,” Mayor Marty Blum said. “…With Christmas coming up in a few weeks, it would be nice for the holidays for them to have that pay.”
City negotiators have met in closed session since May, trying to work out a deal with the firefighters association. Mayor Blum said the association will vote sometime before Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and she is hopeful they will give it the go-ahead.
“If they don’t approve it, it’s right back to the drawing board,” she said.
Calls to the firefighters association were not immediately returned. If the association agrees the proposal, the City Council will vote to ratify a memorandum of understanding between the two parties at its Tuesday meeting.
Under the tentative agreement, fire employees will see between a 2 percent and 3 percent increase in base salary every January and July. Mayor Blum said the average pay for a Santa Barbara firefighter is below the median salary of firefighters in comparable cities.
“That’s not good,” she said. “We want them to be higher than the median.”
The agreement also increases the city’s maximum monthly contribution to family medical insurance premiums by $175.55 each January. Among other changes are yearly increases in standby pay for prevention employees and an increase in the number of firefighters that may be granted vacation in any given week.
Retiree medical insurance contributions will also increase to $10 per month per year of service, up to a maximum of 35 years, or $350 a month.
In a report to city leaders, city employee relations manager Kristine Schmidt estimated the annual ongoing budget impact of the agreement to be slightly more than $3 million. About $80,000 in reserves will be needed to cover the increases in fiscal year 2008, according to the report.
If the firefighters association does not ratify the tentative agreement either today or tomorrow, Mayor Blum said the City Council will be forced to table the issue and return to closed session negotiations.

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