Tentative contract eliminates longevity pay for new firefighters

Clark County firefighters reached a tentative three-year contract agreement with county officials Friday afternoon that is expected to save the county about $60 million over 25 years.

The deal, which runs from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015, eliminates longevity pay for new hires, where county staff members expect to reap most of the savings, and freezes cost of living adjustments for the first two years with the option of allowing either party to renegotiate the third year.

County officials have said they spend about $25 million a year on overall longevity pay, originally used as a recruitment tool to attract employees and reward them annually for their years of service after eight years.

According to the most recent annual employee compensation report, longevity pay made up about 8 percent of firefighter pay and 15 percent of battalion chief pay.

The report also showed that fire payroll has decreased by more than $11.3 million, 12 percent, over the past two years because of collective bargaining concessions and operational changes. County officials also reported the average salary and benefits for firefighters falling to $175,000 in fiscal year 2011 from $189,000 in fiscal year 2010.

"The Local 1908 has come to the table and demonstrated a sincere willingness to address the short- and long-term financial issues the county faces," Assistant County Manager Ed Finger said. "There have been some past challenges, but their assistance and partnership is real and deserves recognition."

Union members are slated to vote on the agreement April 10-12. The County Commission is expected to ratify the agreement at its April 17 meeting.

"It's a great deal for both sides," said Ryan Beaman, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1908. "We were responsive to county and taxpayer needs. When both sides come to the table and negotiate, and are open and willing to work together, the negotiations process works."

Beaman added that firefighters have taken a 10.5 percent decrease in pay over the past two years.

This is the third consecutive agreement with the union in the past 18 months to include major financial concessions.

Commissioner Tom Collins said the agreement is "three years of peace, and that's a good thing." But he said in eight to 10 years, the longevity component has "half getting longevity and half not."

"That breaks down the brotherhood," Collins said.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the elimination of longevity pay in county union contracts is something he has been "preaching for three years."

"That's enormous," Sisolak said of the estimated contract savings. "That gives the next generations and next elected officials and citizens more flexibility and a better system."

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.