Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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Fire union’s contract offer would cost an additional $12 million over two years, city says

Las Vegas officials did something Tuesday rarely seen in public.

After declaring an impasse with the city firefighters union last week, city officials gave the public the chance to see contract terms offered by the city firefighters union and by city negotiators.

Their conclusion: If the city went along with the union’s version of a two-year contract, the city’s expense for firefighters would increase $5.9 million the first year and $6.4 million the second year.

Those millions would result from union-requested wage increases equal to roughly 2.7 percent (about $2.2 million per year); a holiday-pay increase of 1.75 hours ($605,000 per year); an additional four shifts of pay if firefighters use less sick leave (an additional $906,000 annually); medical insurance benefits increase from $360 to $475 per month (an increase of $2.1 million first year and $2.5 million in the second year); and educational benefits amounting to $100,000 per year.

The city’s counter-offer included: no cost-of-living wage increases; a savings by shifting the way overtime is calculated; eliminating longevity pay for new employees and freezing it for current employees; increasing medical insurance benefits to $400 per month instead of $475; and reducing the amount of sick leave that firefighters can sell back to the city by 50 percent.

The city also offered an incentive that hasn’t been seen before in Southern Nevada. It’s called “gain-sharing,” and is akin to profit-sharing in the private sector. It means if the city saves because employees are productive and efficient, a certain amount of the money saved would be given as a bonus among all city employees.

Speaking to the dire finances facing Las Vegas, whose tax revenues have fallen like all Nevada municipalities during the recession, Councilman Bob Beers said the city’s offer was a reflection of the times. And if the union and city turned to arbitration, and if the union won, the city’s alternative might be layoffs.

“As we’re seeing now with North Las Vegas’ drama, and in the school district, when the union wins that arbitrated cost-of-living increase at a time when government has been flat for a period of time … you may have to lay off people,” said Beers, who was endorsed by the firefighters union. “There’s only so much money to go around.”

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