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North Las Vegas, firefighters OK concessions

The North Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement on contract concessions with the firefighters union that will save the jobs of 33 firefighters.

The agreement includes the suspension of cost-of-living raises for fiscal year 2011-12, which starts July 1. The 3.75 percent raise will not be deferred or made up in future years.

The value of the concessions is about $4 million.

Jeff Hurley, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1607, said the union is willing to negotiate with the cash-strapped city for even more concessions.

“We do not believe as firefighters that our responsibility is done,” he said. “This in our eyes is not wiping our hands and walking away. We’re committed to working with the city.”

If the agreement hadn’t been reached, the 33 firefighters could have been laid off as soon as July.

The union’s agreement with the city also includes suspending step increases, which will not be made up in future years, and freezing holiday and sick leave sell-back in fiscal year 2012.

In exchange, the city agrees to not lay off firefighter union members through the end of the fiscal year. If more concessions are needed during that time — as determined by an independent auditor — the union agrees to come back for more talks.

The city also agrees not to privatize the city’s firefighter functions, including ambulance transports, through the remainder of the union’s contract, which runs through 2014.

North Las Vegas employs 103 firefighters and firefighter-paramedics and 34 fire engineers.

The vote on the agreement was split 3-2, with council members William Robinson and Robert Eliason voting against it. Both declined to comment after the meeting.

A vote on the concessions agreement was delayed twice earlier this year while the city audited Fire Department personnel’s use of sick leave and overtime to ensure neither was being abused.

That audit, completed last month, found that firefighters don’t abuse sick leave or overtime.

“Our auditor did an amazing job and has assured each one of us on the council that that is not a problem in North Las Vegas,” Councilwoman Anita Wood said.

The audit did find that tight staffing levels at the Fire Department have led to more than $3 million a year in overtime.

The firefighters union in March filed a complaint with the state’s Employee-Management Relations Board.

The complaint alleged in part that the city acted in bad faith when it “refused to ratify” the concession agreement in February.

The complaint is still being processed, and Hurley said the union will re-evaluate whether to continue with it in wake of the approval of the agreement.

The firefighters union is the third of the city’s unions to come to an agreement in the latest round of concessions aimed at saving money and avoiding more layoffs as the city continues to struggle financially.

The largest of the unions, Teamsters Local 14, agreed to concessions in November that included suspending cost-of-living raises for 2012. The concessions, valued at $17.7 million, saved 144 jobs.

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

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