0.5% raise kept in contract

Bills

After conceding to a two-tier retirement system while agreeing
to pay 9 percent contributions toward their pensions, firefighters
say they were able to keep a key 0.5 percent raise to give members
a motivation to move up the ranks.
After conceding to a two-tier retirement system while agreeing to pay 9 percent contributions toward their pensions, firefighters say they were able to keep a key 0.5 percent raise to give members a motivation to move up the ranks.

After nine months of often-heated negotiations over salaries and budget cuts between fire union Local 2805 and the City of Gilroy, a concession agreement along with a separate resolution concerning fire personnel salaries were approved via roll call vote July 19 by the city that eliminated negotiated salary increases of 1.5 percent for fire captains, fire engineers and firefighters, but kept a 0.5 percent pay increase for engineers and captains.

“Everyone works equally hard,” said Jim Buessing, secretary and treasurer of the Gilroy Fire Fighters IAFF, Local 2805. “But there was a compaction issue between classifications.”

According to Buessing, budget cuts from the agreement brought the salaries for firefighters, fire engineers and fire captains too close together, therefore making it unfeasible to move up in the ranks without economic motivation.

“This gives people the opportunity to advance within the department,” he said.

The amended changes to the 2007 memorandum of understanding contract include reinstating the 4.94 percent temporary salary reduction with the elimination of the furlough program.

As part of the concession agreement, all fire department employees gave up the 1.5 percent negotiated wage increases scheduled for July 1, 2010, Jan. 1, 2011 and July 1, 2011, as laid out in the MOU for the period of Jan. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2011.

The 0.5 percent salary increase for fire engineers and captains was negotiated in the fall of 2007 and contained in the 2007 MOU. Per the agreement, the increase occurred July 1, 2010, and will continue for the Jan. 1, 2011 and July 1, 2011 dates.

“These adjustments had to do with the specific job classifications and responsibilities and to provide the appropriate distance between classification pay ranges,” said LeeAnn McPhillips, human resources director for The City of Gilroy.

According to the job description for a Gilroy fire captain, he/she is responsible for the readiness of personnel, apparatus and equipment; fire station maintenance; the supervision of fire company personnel in the performance of their duties to include fire suppression and rescue, hazardous materials and emergency medical incident responses; fire and hazardous materials incident prevention and administration of an in-service training program.

A fire engineer, under the direction of the fire captain, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of fire apparatus equipment, station equipment and the fire station. Engineers respond to fires, Emergency Medical Services, hazardous materials incidents, rescues and emergency service requests.

Buessing and Local 2805 President Joshua Valverde signed the July 19 amended memorandum to represent the ratification of the agreement by their full membership after a formal vote. The new contract will remain in place until June 30, 2013.

McPhillips and Local 2805 said the 0.5 percent raises would take place in increments over time so that it is cost efficient for Gilroy.

McPhillips has said the new contract is expected to cut fire services costs by $380,870 during the next fiscal year and $365,500 in subsequent years.

Under the new system, all bargaining unit employees are responsible for their 9 percent pension contributions along with a two-tier retirement system. New hires will now receive 2 percent yearly of their highest annual salary for each year they worked toward their pension starting the earliest at age 55.

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