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City, firefighters union reach tentative deal

Las Vegas and the city firefighters union have reached a tentative agreement on a labor contract that would eliminate or reduce some pay increases and is expected to keep the department from reducing units in service.

The agreement was reached late Tuesday afternoon.

Firefighters, who have been negotiating a new contract, had declared an impasse in talks, meaning arbitration would have been necessary.

The tentative deal is scheduled for consideration by the City Council on July 7. Members of International Association of Firefighters Local 1285 are scheduled to vote on it Friday and July 6.

As proposed, the agreement would reduce projected costs by $6.5 million over the next two years. The city’s original savings target was $8.8 million.

“We have been negotiating in good faith from the beginning,” Dean Fletcher, president of the firefighters union, said in a statement. “We are proud that we fought with everything that we had to reach this agreement with the city to avoid brownouts that would have endangered public safety and increased response times.”

Las Vegas has laid off more than 200 workers as part of cost-saving measures to meet an $80 million shortfall, and more layoffs are planned. City officials have to bridge an expected $50 million deficit in the next budget year. No firefighters were on the layoff list.

“The ability to work with our bargaining units is the way we’ll be able to preserve services and jobs,” City Manager Betsy Fretwell said.

The proposed firefighter contract would do the following:

■ Eliminate a cost-of-living raise. The previous contract called for a cost-of-living raise of 3.5 percent.

■ Reduce step increases by half in the next two budget years and cut the starting salary of new employees by
5 percent. Step raises average about
5.6 percent. A city firefighter’s base pay now is $44,947 to $77,602 a year.

■ Eliminate the uniform allowance of $1,500 a year for 2011, an expected savings of $900,000.

■ Reduce the city’s medical contribution to $360 per pay period, down from $450 per pay period. The contribution will be in only 24 pay periods instead of 26.

■ Reduce a paperwork payment to paramedics by 50 percent in 2011 and eliminate it in 2012.

■ Increase the number of “roving” responders, which is expected to reduce overtime.

Also, the city would agree not to pursue the privatization of ambulance services during the two-year contract. No proposal for such a move was presented to the City Council.

The plan should eliminate the need for expected “brownouts,” in which units from a few fire stations would not be staffed for a day, city officials said.

City officials started seeking pay reductions from all employees late last year, proposing wage rollbacks of
8 percent in each of the next two budget years.

That idea was met with resistance, and officials prepared a 2011 budget with more than 200 layoffs.

Ten of those were avoided when the city marshals unit agreed to give up cost-of-living and step increases in the new budget year while also accepting a 4 percent pay cut.

Las Vegas and two other bargaining units — the Las Vegas City Employees Association, the largest, and the Las Vegas Peace Officers Association, which represents corrections workers — have not reached concession agreements.

The firefighters union has 601 members.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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