Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2019

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Las Vegas firefighters, city still at contract impasse

Major sticking point: city’s request for 3 percent salary cut

Although other city employees have agreed to pay cuts for the upcoming year, firefighters have balked at a 3 percent rollback in salaries, the Las Vegas City Council was told Wednesday.

The rollback — a cut of $2.1 million in firefighter salaries — is the main reason a federal mediator will be brought in this month to help reach agreement, Dan Tarwater, the city’s human resources director, told the council Wednesday.

“We’re still far apart in our negotiations,” Tarwater said.

At the sixth meeting April 27, the firefighters’ union, International Association of Fire Fighters, announced an impasse, Tarwater said.

“Basically, we’re stuck,” Tarwater said. “We have not reached an agreement with this contract.”

Lavonne Ritter, a mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Las Vegas, will meet with both sides June 13 and June 15.

“We hope that works and we don’t have to go any further,” Tarwater said.

The city has also, on a parallel path, filed for fact-finding, and has selected Norman Brand as a fact-finder, Tarwater said. Brand served as an arbitrator between Clark County and county firefighters.

Mediation, fact-finding and arbitration are all outlined in state law, he said. Fact-finding is a process by which a labor dispute is investigated, evidence is presented to a fact-finder and a written report is issued by the fact-finder, setting forth recommendations for a settlement.

“So we’re very hopeful that we will settle this in the mediation process, but not to slow it down in case we don’t, we filed for the fact-finding process at the same time,” Tarwater said.

The reason the city wants to cut salaries by 3 percent is because last year, when negotiators were looking at reducing cost of living allowance costs, firefighters were given credit for already reducing their salaries by 2 percent, or about $2 million, he said.

“This year there is no credit. We did not budget for a cost of living increase, and that’s why we proposed a 3 percent rollback in wages,” he said.

Tarwater said they had also told firefighter negotiators that if a rollback wasn’t acceptable, they proposed some changes in operating procedures the fire chief has recommended that would cut overtime wages.

“Those two items were discussed back and forth between the union and the city’s team,” he said.

So far, both sides have agreed that firefighters will not get a cost of living increase next year, he said. They have also agreed on the city reducing its medical contributions from $450 to $360 per month, amounting to a savings of $1.4 million.

Still at odds are the city’s request not to give a uniform allowance of $1,500 per firefighter.

Firefighters have also agreed to reductions in their step increases of $450,000 and agreed to eliminate $450,000 they were given as an incentive to fill out paperwork.

The city also wants the contract to be for only one year, he said.

“We think that we still are going to be looking for concessions and more from our unions and our executive and appointive (employee groups) to get through the next two or three years,” Tarwater said.

He said the city also wants to hire 18 more qualified candidates from other agencies as a way to cut down on the cost of overtime.

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