North Las Vegas council adopts pact with firefighters to give up pay raises

The North Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement on contract concessions with the city’s firefighters union, a pact that will save the jobs of 16 firefighters.

"This is really what needed to happen for the city," Councilwoman Anita Wood said. "It’s going a long way to help us get through this difficult period."

The Council approved the agreement 3-2 after a 15-minute hearing, with Councilmen William Robinson and Robert Eliason voting against it.

Under the agreement, firefighters represented by IAFF Local 1607 will give up their annual cost-of-living and merit or step raises for fiscal year 2010-2011, which begins July 1.

In exchange, the city agrees not to lay off any union firefighters during the fiscal year and will increase firefighters’ annual leave by 2.9 hours each pay period during the year.

The city, which has been dealing with plummeting revenues in recent years, had looked to save about $1.8 million in its 2010-2011 Fire Department budget by laying off 16 firefighters. Those firefighters had already received lay-off notices effective June 18. Instead, the $1.8 million will now come from union concessions, the city said.

City officials had long said they couldn’t guarantee against layoffs in a shaky economy. But once the firefighters agreed to give up, rather than simply defer, their annual raises, the city could afford to offer that guarantee, council members Wood and Richard Cherchio said last week. Mayor Shari Buck has long opposed any cuts to public safety.

"I’m very happy to see us reach this agreement to save these jobs and to have good teamwork with our firefighters union," Buck said.

Neither Eliason nor Robinson explained their decision to vote "no" Wednesday and both declined to comment after the meeting. But both men have split with the Council before, even voting against the city’s budget in 2008 because it included new public safety positions. Robinson and Eliason at the time said they couldn’t support adding new positions in shaky economic times.

The city in April approved eliminating 204 jobs, including the firefighter positions.

Before the agreement, firefighters were scheduled to receive a cost-of living raise of 3.5 percent in 2010-2011, the city said. Step raises average about 5 percent.

The union also agreed to extend an agreement made with the city last year that decreases the manning of certain engines from five people to four; decrease the starting pay for entry-level firefighters and firefighter paramedics by 5 percent for the life of the union’s contract, which runs through 2015; and cut its stand-by pay in half in 2010-2011.

The city has since December 2008 undergone several rounds of budget cuts, eliminated or frozen dozens of positions, trimmed departmental budgets and offered voluntary employee buyouts and furloughs.

North Las Vegas in May adopted a $736.8 million budget for fiscal year 2010-2011, an amount about 10 percent less than the previous year’s budget.

The Fire Department’s budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 is $36.3 million, compared with $39.4 million for 2009-2010.

Contact Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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