Las Vegas firefighters get $7.2 million more pay, benefits under contract deal

Las Vegas firefighters will get $7.2 million in additional pay and benefits over three years under a new labor contract approved by the City Council.

The contract agreement brings to an end about two years of testy negotiations between labor and management. It was one of several personnel issues before the council Wednesday.

The deal won praise not only from both sides of the negotiating table but also from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, a business group that has been critical of the cost of public employee labor contracts.

“It adds some stability to the city of Las Vegas and some stability for our firefighters,” said Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony. “It is one less thing we have to worry about.”

The agreement won unanimous approval from the council and from 93 percent of rank-and-file members of International Association of Firefighters Local 1285, who voted on it in recent days.

Terms are retroactive to June 2012 and continue until 2016.

Highlights include 1.5 percent pay raises in years two and three and a 2 percent increase in year four, which come at an additional cost to the city of about $4.6 million.

Another $2.3 million in costs comes from an agreement by the city to provide $500 per worker, per pay period to the firefighters’ health coverage fund. That benefit was $450, but in recent years firefighters had agreed to that being reduced to $360 as a concession to help the city during the deep recession.

“This will help the trust fund to have more in reserves,” said Dan Tarwater, the city’s human resources director.

Savings for taxpayers came in the form of long-term agreements, such as the decision to forgo longevity pay increases for new-hires.

“That is fundamentally important for the financial stability of a lot of our local governments,” said Brian McAnallen, vice president of government affairs for the chamber.

Other savings came from a lower cap on sick leave accrual and changes to the way overtime is allotted. The city will also seek to hire more firefighters to reduce the number of overtime shifts required, Tarwater said.

The city is in the process of evaluating more than 700 applications for 44 spots in an upcoming recruit academy.

The previous recruiting class was dismissed without finishing the course following allegations of cheating on a written test. The recruits have turned to the Employee Management Relations Board, a state entity, to appeal to get their positions back.

In the meantime the city is going forward with a new academy and said the ousted recruits were free to apply with all the other applicants.

In addition to the firefighters agreement, the council:

■ Approved a new labor contract with the Las Vegas Peace Officers Association, which is made up of corrections personnel. The new deal will cost an additional $1.4 million and includes a 3 percent pay raise, which restores a 3 percent pay cut the group took previously, and a 1.5 percent increase in the second year.

■ Heard a performance review and approved a pay and benefit increase for City Manager Betsy Fretwell. The 3 percent raise boosted Fretwell’s annual salary to about $183,400. The council also approved an additional 40 hours of vacation for the manager.

■ Heard updates on the status of labor agreements with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and the Las Vegas City Employees Association. The city is negotiating with the protective association, which includes city marshals, and could have an agreement for the council to consider later this month.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .