Firefighters’ union, civilian unions approve cuts in new contracts with city
on July 8, 2011
The City of Oakland firefighters’ union voted to approve a new contract with the city Thursday, a deal they say will save the city close to $30 million over three years by cutting firefighters’ salaries, among other concessions.
All five of the city unions approved contracts with the city this week, helping shave off $23 million from a $58-million budget gap. All unions agreed to give back approximately nine percent in compensation, according to Mayor Jean Quan. Along with the firefighters’ and police unions, civilian unions Service Employees International Union Local 1021, Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 agreed to contracts.
The contracts we tentatively agreed to last week, when the city passed a budget agreement, but had to be approved by union members. Voting for the firefighters’ union closed last night, with 242 votes in favor of the deal and 104 opposed.
“Any time you to make a concession, you’re not happy about it,” said union president Chuck Garcia. “But we know it helps the city survive, and we know as firefighters and the union leadership, we understand this gives us more protection against cuts in the fire department.”
The new International Association of Firefighters Local 55 contract includes an 8.9 percent pay cut, the loss of two vacation days, freezing the city’s contribution to the union’s dental plan, and moving the retirement age from 50 to 55 for new employees. Firefighters will continue to contribute 13 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. The new contract also gives the city the option of “rolling brownouts”—temporarily closing two stations daily on a rotating basis beginning in July 2012.
In exchange, minimum staffing levels, which were set to expire in 2015, were extended until 2017. The staffing level limits were a part of Measure Y, a 2004 ballot measure intended to help fund police and fire services with a parcel tax and parking surcharge. The measure sets staffing at a level sufficient to operate 25 fire engine companies and seven truck companies. Garcia said that includes four people on each rig and five on the three downtown trucks.
“We’re going to let this happen now because of the economic times,” Garcia said of the concessions, “but we’re going to push that [staffing question] down to 2017 so we can continue to make sure our staffing is where it should be.”
Earlier Thursday, the Oakland Police Officers’ Association also announced its members had voted to approve a deal with the city that includes paying 9 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.
“The significant contributions from all of our employees allow us to preserve city services, help us prepare Oakland for better days and move forward as a city,” Quan said today in a press release.
Layoff notices were also delivered to 68 city employees today, Quan said, as the city’s new budget begins to be implemented.
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