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October 25, 2014

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Henderson firefighters set to get pay hike under new deal

The Henderson City Council is scheduled to approve a new labor deal tonight with its firefighters’ union, the last of the city’s six collective bargaining units to renegotiate its agreement as part of Henderson’s budget-cutting efforts.

“These are tough times and in order to get through them everyone understands that we have to work together,” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said in a statement. “We are pleased to see everyone coming to the table to help bridge the shortfall that we are experiencing as a city.”

Unlike the unions representing Henderson Police Officers, Police Supervisors, and three Teamsters unions representing various other employees, however, Henderson firefighters will still be receiving pay increases.

Henderson’s other five unions have all agreed to forgo annual pay increases altogether for the current fiscal year, which began July 1 and ends June 30.

The deal with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1883, which represents Henderson firefighters, will reduce the 3.5 percent increase members received July 1 to 1 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year, effective Sept. 21.

The agreement, which was to end at the end of this fiscal year, would also be extended by two years, with pay increases of 1.25 percent for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

The renegotiated agreement is expected to save the city about $2.3 million over the next four years.

“We’re proud that our firefighters stepped up and we’re proud that all of our bargaining units stepped up,” Henderson spokesman Bud Cranor said. “I think everybody recognizes that these are tough times. ... For everybody to come back to the table when they’re not obligated to do that, I think it says that Henderson has a great relationship with its bargaining units.”

In a statement, IAFF Local 1883 President Brian Wolfgram said his union readily accepted the new deal.

“Our firefighters’ households are affected like everyone else in the nation,” Wolfgram said. “With the costs going up and home values going down, this is yet another example of the sacrifices they are willing to make for their community.

“The firefighters are not receiving any benefit enhancements or non-monetary concessions from the city. I am extremely proud of our membership for overwhelmingly approving this concession and with no strings attached.”

Henderson Acting Human Resources Director Fred Horvath said discussions with the firefighters union were friendly and productive, but that the deal took so long to get done because the city was involved in renegotiating with the other five unions.

Horvath said that while the new agreements seem unequal on the surface, with the firefighters being the only group receiving a base wage increase this year, there are other factors in the other deals that balance them out. He said both police unions and all three teamsters unions received small, lump-sum payments in lieu of base increases, and there were other considerations as well.

Police officers, for example, received a small increase in their monthly uniform allowance.

“Each group kind of did their own thing,” Horvath said. “Each group has its own particular interests.”

With all six bargaining groups having agreed to lower or no pay increases this year, the city expects to save more than $10 million over the next four years at a time when Henderson is struggling to make ends meet.

The City Council has done across-the-board budget cuts twice in the last year, offered veteran employees a buyout, instituted a four-day work week for all city departments except public safety and suspended several construction projects as part of its efforts to meet declining tax revenue streams.

Earlier this month, the Council learned that June’s tax receipts were down more than 21 percent from the previous year, lower than the city’s most dismal projections had expected, which has prompted the council to consider cuts to municipal services.

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