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North Las Vegas, firefighters union come to tentative agreement

North Las Vegas on Monday came to a tentative agreement on contract concessions with the firefighters union that will save the jobs of 35 firefighters and move the city a little closer to solvency.

The agreement, which still must be approved by the City Council, includes a 5 percent base salary reduction for union members.

The agreement is good through the end of January, after which the parties will talk again, said Jeff Hurley, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1607. “We want to make sure we look at the books” then, he said.

The value of the concessions is about $2 million, according to city officials.

The layoffs were part of the city’s plan to bridge a $30.3 million shortfall in the fiscal 2012 budget year, which began July 1. The City Council in May approved a budget that included slashing more than 250 positions across city departments to address that shortfall, unless the city could come to concessions agreements with its employee unions.

That budget was thrown into disarray earlier this month when the police union won a court decision that prohibited the city from proceeding with layoffs of nearly 40 of its members, based on language in its contract that was amended earlier this year.

Because the firefighters union contract contains language almost identical to that of that of the police union, the city expected to have to add those positions back to its budget, too. Indeed, a District Court judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order that prevented the city from laying off firefighters union members pending a hearing on a preliminary injunction set for Wednesday.

That left North Las Vegas scrambling to come up with the $8.6 million it would have saved with those public safety cuts. It also left city staffers worried about a potential financial emergency and state takeover of the city’s finances.

If approved, the firefighters union’s concessions will shrink that hole to $6.6 million.

The union “really worked with us,” Councilwoman Anita Wood said Monday. “They have shown nothing but good faith with us.”

Mayor Shari Buck said she hoped the agreement serves as model for city talks with other employee unions “who we need to mend fences with.”

Despite a court order prohibiting firefighter layoffs, the union “stayed at the table to come to a solution,” Hurley said.

“We didn’t want a third party to come in,” he said.

The agreement, which would be effective Aug. 1, includes eliminating uniform maintenance pay, educational reimbursements and educational incentives. The union also would dismiss its complaints against the city in District Court and with the Employee-Management Relations Board.

North Las Vegas employs about 100 firefighters and firefighter-paramedics and 34 fire engineers. Firefighters in the city average $162,000 a year in salaries and benefits, according to a committee formed last year to study the city’s budget.

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

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