Las Vegas Sun

July 23, 2016

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Arbitrator backs county over firefighters’ union in contract negotiations

Clark County firefighters will see a 5.5 percent reduction in total wages and benefits after an independent arbitrator selected the county’s contract offer, a move the county estimates will save taxpayers about $7.4 million.

The firefighters' final offer, which wasn't selected by the arbitrator, would have saved $6.1 million, the county said Wednesday. The contract award marks a final step in negotiations that started in February 2010.

The arbitrator was looking at issues of wage adjustments, sick leave, remote/travel pay, reduction in force and long-term disability benefits.

"We are pleased with the outcome," County Manager Don Burnette said in a statement. “It’s been a long, difficult process, and this was the right course of action. We’re happy to have this behind us.”

The agreement covers the period from July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. Under state law, negotiations for the next contract can begin Feb. 1, the county said.

In August, negotiations were declared to be at an impasse, and the next month the two sides agreed to binding arbitration. Five days of hearings took place between Nov. 1 and Dec. 9, with both parties having until Jan. 9 to submit a final offer. State law gives the arbitrator 10 days to accept one offer in its entirety.

The contract affects 741 employees covered under the agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1908, which is the county’s second-largest union.

Both sides had agreed to freezes in salary increases as well as changes for how longevity pay is calculated for new employees outside of arbitration, the county said.

The agreement accepted by the arbitrator includes the following:

- $3.4 million in wage adjustments, including a 2 percent salary reduction

- Policy changes to improve the county’s ability to investigate abuse of sick leave

- Savings of $738,036 due to a lower contribution to the union’s insurance trust

- Savings of $500,000 attributed to modifications of the long-term disability policy

The county said it is looking ahead to its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. A hearing on the preliminary budget is set for March 23 with a public hearing on the final budget scheduled for May 16.

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