City taking steps toward binding arbitration with firefighters union

Las Vegas officials think that the city and the firefighters union can reach a labor accord soon, but have also taken steps to prepare for binding arbitration in case the impasse proves unbreakable.

"We're very hopeful that we'll settle this in mediation," said Dan Tarwater, the city's human resources director, to the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday.

But the city already has started the fact-finding process, which is a prelude to binding arbitration, where a third party takes competing offers from both sides and chooses one.

Las Vegas has asked members of International Association of Firefighters Local 1285 to accept a 3 percent pay cut and to give up a $1,500 uniform allowance for another year. The city also has offered to change staffing levels or shifts to reduce overtime in lieu of a pay cut.

The union has rejected those proposals, leading to the current negotiating stalemate.

The uniform allowance was one of several concessions the union granted last year. The union also agreed to give up a cost-of-living raise, pay more toward health insurance, reduce annual step raises and phase out a payment to paramedics and EMTs for completing paperwork.

Those concessions would be retained in a new agreement, which would require a pending increase in the Public Employees Retirement System contribution to be split between the city and the employee.

The city previously agreed to cover increases.

The city's offer on the one-year contract would save $5.3 million. The firefighters' version would save $2.3 million. The recently approved budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, called for $6 million in cuts.

Las Vegas' three other employee unions have agreed to concessions, including pay cuts.

A 2010 study found that Las Vegas firefighter base pay averaged $69,609, which was 7 percent above the market average. That figure does not include overtime pay. The union has about 600 members.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at or 702-229-6435.