Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2002 | 11:12 a.m.
Las Vegas firefighters, who have been working without a contract for the past 15 months, are expected to get a new package this week that will include two retroactive 3 percent pay raises, preserved longevity benefits and a bolstered health plan.
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will consider the four-year pact that, if approved, will cost the city $3.8 million extra for 2002-03.
It includes $695,000 to augment a projected increase to the Las Vegas Firefighters Health and Welfare Trust and $3.1 million for pay and other benefits.
"We came out OK," Dean Fletcher, president of Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285, said. "The key issues were longevity and the health and welfare trust."
More than 90 percent of the firefighters ratified the deal, Fletcher said.
So deadlocked were the parties at one point that they decided to go to a fact-finding process, a formal procedure in which a dispute is reviewed by a third party. The process offers written, nonbinding recommendations.
"The fact-finder gave us a point of reference that allowed both sides to negotiate and resolve the issues," City Manager Doug Selby said, adding that he is optimistic the council will ratify the contract. "Both sides gave a little and reached a fair agreement."
The contract will give firefighters a 3 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive to June 24, 2001, another 3 percent increase retroactive to last June and another 3 percent raise in June 2003. A 3.5 percent raise is slated for June 2004.
The 490 firefighters under this contract are looking at a windfall in retroactive pay.
For a middle-pay-level city firefighter -- whose base salary would become $50,155 for 2001 and $51,660 for this year -- the 15 months of retroactive pay from the two 3 percent raises would be about $1,900 before taxes.
Perhaps the most hotly contested issue was the 3 percent longevity pay. Both sides hammered out an agreement for the benefit to kick in after 10 years.
Fletcher said the union wanted that benefit paid after six years of employment. Selby said the city wanted to do away with longevity for all new employees, similar to what the city did with appointed staff members.
Selby said longevity started many years ago as an incentive for employees to stay in government and not leave for higher-paying private sector jobs. Today, Selby said, government salaries are so strong that longevity incentives no longer are needed.
However, firefighters, during a demonstration in front of City Hall last October, vowed to fight the loss of any benefits, especially longevity pay.
The pact also proposes to increase the city's monthly per-employee donation to the Fire Health and Welfare Trust from $264 to $327.
Other highlights of the proposed contract: