North Las Vegas, firefighters reach tentative agreement

The city of North Las Vegas and its firefighters union have reached a tentative agreement on contract concessions to save the jobs of 33 firefighters.

The agreement, reached Tuesday, still must be approved by the City Council and by a vote of the union’s membership. It includes the suspension of cost-of-living raises for fiscal year 2011-12, which begins July 1. The 3.75 percent raise will not be deferred or made up in future years.

The value of the concessions is about $4.5 million.

“We understand the city is in a tough fiscal situation,” said Jeff Hurley, president of the union, IAFF Local 1607. “We have come together in good faith, and we will reopen the contract and renegotiate if the economy gets worse.”

If an agreement had not 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 2011.

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, 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 . That contract runs through 2015, Hurley said.

Union members also will receive 75 hours of additional leave time in fiscal year 2011.

North Las Vegas residents “should be very proud of the way we were able to work through this without compromising public safety,” Hurley said.

The city released a statement Tuesday saying it was pleased with the agreement. City Council members did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday .

The union represents 190 firefighters and support staffers, Hurley said.

North Las Vegas employs 103 firefighters and firefighter-paramedics and 34 fire engineers, according to the city.

It 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 with the effects of the economic slump. The City Council earlier this month approved contract concessions with the city’s police union that saved 11 jobs. In November, the council approved concessions with the city’s largest union, Teamsters Local 14, that saved 144 jobs.

In June 2010, the firefighters union agreed to contract concessions to save the jobs of 16 firefighters. Those concessions including suspending cost-of-living and step raises for fiscal year 2010-2011.

North Las Vegas firefighters average $162,000 a year in salaries and benefits, according to a committee formed last year to study the city’s budget. The fire department’s budget for fiscal year 2010-11 is $45.9 million. The city in May adopted a $736.8 million budget for 2010-11.

The city, which is dealing with a $35 million shortfall through fiscal year 2011-12, laid off 188 workers in June. Another 44, all North Las Vegas Detention Center workers, were let go in October after the detention center lost about a third of its inmates to a facility for federal inmates in Pahrump.

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

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