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September 20, 2014

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City government:

City, firefighters turn to fact-finding to resolve contract differences

Image

Steve Marcus

City of Las Vegas firefighters treat a man, apparently suffering from smoke inhalation, after a fire at the City Center Motel, on the northeast corner of Fremont Street and Seventh Street, in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

After months at impasse, firefighters and the city of Las Vegas are scheduled next month to resume efforts to reach a contract agreement, this time with the help of a third party.

Over the course of three days starting Feb. 4, an independent fact-finder will hear arguments and evidence from both sides and issue recommendations about the disputes that could help end negotiations that had been stalled since an impasse was declared in May 2012.

There’s been little discussion about the contract since, said Scott Johnson, president of firefighter union Local 1285. Firefighters have continued working under the terms of the previous agreement.

At issue are concessions sought by the city that firefighters are reluctant to make after several years of budget cuts.

“That doesn’t mean we are asking for a great deal of things. It simply means we are hoping to reset and do some recovery of concessions our members have made in the last couple of contracts,” Johnson said.

City Manager Elizabeth Fretwell has called the growth of the fire department’s budget, which has increased at nearly twice the rate of the city’s general fund since 2004, unsustainable.

The contentiousness of the negotiations is captured in a September complaint filed by the firefighters after the city offered each of them a $549 bonus.

The complaint, which has played out over the past months in a series of filings with the Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board, accuses the city of bad-faith bargaining for offering the bonus to firefighters as part of its “gain-sharing program.”

The program, akin to profit-sharing in the private sector, took a percentage of leftover funds, $1.3 million this year, and gave them to city employees in the form of a bonus.

Three employee groups, 262 nonunion employees and 263 members of two separate police unions, accepted the bonuses, but the 594-member firefighter union and the 1,248-member Las Vegas City Employee Association rejected the bonuses.

The firefighters were the only employee group to file a complaint over the bonuses. Johnson said the gain-sharing bonus circumvented and undermined the collective-bargaining process.

“We feel that these issues are best handled at the negotiating table. This is not the proper process by which to go forward with this type of an offer,” Johnson said.

That complaint likely won’t be heard by the employee relations board for several months, by which time the fact-finder could have issued his recommendations.

Johnson said he’s optimistic the fact-finding process would lead to a deal between the firefighters and the city.

If it doesn’t, negotiations could make their way to binding arbitration, where each side submits its final, best offer and an arbitrator chooses between them, something the firefighters haven’t done in more than a decade, Johnson said.

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  1. Approximately 81 people who work for the Las Vegas Fire Department made over $200,000 last year in salary and benefits. The highest was over $304,000 for a Battalion Chief. The firefighters get paid a lot more than the people who drive the blue and white ambulances who respond to the same medical emergencies. Also, they can retire much younger with a big pension.

  2. It's not just the firefighters who are looting the local treasuries. The City Manager of Henderson made over $962,000 in salary and benefits last year. A fire engineer in Clark County made over $532,000, a corrections lieutenant in North Las Vegas made over $525,000, the Fire Chief in Henderson made over $521,000, the Assistant Sheriff for Metro made over $544,000, and a lieutenant made over $507,000. Check out http://transparentnevada.com/ for yourself. Then you'll know why we have 45 kids in a classroom.

  3. Tis true that many government employees are grossly overpaid. Media told us that New York area firefighters get maybe $50K after 10 years so why are we STILL PAYING SIX FIGURES???

  4. Blah, Blah, Blah
    The City Manager uses the same line over and over again like a broken record about the budget of the fire department. I believe I pay an additional tax to fund my fire department which is ISO Class One and nationally accredited. Keep up the great work firefighters, no matter what the City Manager tries to say about you and your budget!!

  5. Oh yeah? , well there are a lot of issues out there in the world to be more concerned about than contract issues wiht the fire department. # 1 What about the Subway footlong not actually a foot long? LOL # 2 What about all the housewife shows? what if they never get along? what will we do? #3 What about nanny boo boo , will she grow up to look like her mom? . Now go solve those three things and then focus on firefighters salaries. lol

  6. Seems to me that all these firefighters care about is money. It amazes me how much they make here. My son and ex-husband are firefighters and make no where near what they make here. Maybe if they thought more about the community they work for and less about money this place would be better off.

  7. Onetobeat: I did my homework. They make less than $50K a year AFTER 10 years.

  8. Benefits and Salary

    THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD HAS THE BEST BENEFITS IN THE WORLD

    As a New York City Firefighter, you will receive an incredible benefits package and a competitive salary that more than doubles in your first five years on the job.

    But act now, the chance to join only comes every four years.

    Benefits include:

    Lifelong medical coverage for you and your family;
    Growth opportunities;
    Flexible work schedules;
    Up to four weeks paid vacation per year;
    Generous pension.

    Firefighter Salary:

    BASE

    FRINGE*

    TOTAL

    STARTING SALARY

    $39,370

    $3,704

    $43,074

    AFTER 1 YEAR

    $41,311

    $8,159

    $49,470

    AFTER 2 YEARS

    $44,995

    $8,886

    $53,881

    AFTER 3 YEARS

    $49,494

    $9,775

    $59,629

    AFTER 4 YEARS

    $54,556

    $10,775

    $65,331

    AFTER 5 YEARS

    $76,488

    $22,616

    $99,104

    Promotion Opportunities:

    Lieutenant

    $94,300

    $31,548

    $125,848

    Captain

    $108,244

    $40,919

    $149,163

    Battalion Chief

    $140,945

    $20,336

    $161,281

    * Fringe benefits reflect overtime, holiday pay and other differentials

  9. The median expected salary for a typical Fire Fighter in the United States is $42,177. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries and geographies.

  10. I know plenty of firefighters that would gladly move here and accept a job for half the pay that these firefighters are getting here. They put their life in danger everyday as well for a lot less money than these firefighters and don't complain. These firefighters here are full of themselves because they do make so much money. They are a disgrace to the uniform and should be ashamed of themselves.

  11. You also have to take into account when looking at New York's salaries, is the cost of living in New York is so much higher than here in Las Vegas. I moved here from the south and was amazed that the cost of living here in Las Vegas was much lower than where I moved from. So again, I do not understand the very high salaries of not just the firefighters, but others as well. And I might add that the salaries in the south are much lower with the higher cost of living. It just seems to me that all the people here making these high salaries should just be happy with what they are making and stop being so greedy. Remember Karma???

  12. Posters: New York is a STATE with many cities and fire districts including NYC. There was a media clip or something on a 60-minutes-type show where a firefighter talked about taking a 10% pay cut and that amounted to $5K and he had more than 10 years on the job. This was discussed in this forum months ago and I stand by my statements.

  13. Firefighters are essential and deserve a living wage but NOT what we've been paying. Vegas is a large city with a couple dozen high-rises so (some) firefighters need that extra training and serious duty assignments. I join the chorus asking the Commissions to DO SOMETHING to reduce compensation of firefighters and to consider 10% reductions for all government employees at the local (city, county, SD) to reflect the 10%-plus cuts the rest of us have taken--those of us who are still working. The government "leaders" need to get around to serious review of job descriptions versus salary pay scales AFTER adding in the 20% kicker for PERS, 5% of so for health care.... Union contracts should not be RENEWED CONTRACTS until compensation comes down--sure they'll work under the old pay scales and refuse to ratify. DE-CERTIFY any union that refuses a reasonable offer in today's economy. If necessary, rewrite job descriptions and hire a very similar worker with a non "firefighter" job description at the reasonable rates. Perhaps trainee or apprentice.