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City, firefighters reach tentative deal on three-year contract
Friday, November 7, 2008 by Austin Monitor
Negotiators for the Austin Firefighters Association and the City of
“I think it’s great. After months of negotiations, we’ve finally reached an agreement,” said Austin Council Member Mike Martinez, a former president of the firefighters union.
As in the previous two contracts, the city would have the ability to hire and promote outside of the strict civil-service procedure required by state law. “One of the main benefits we receive is more flexibility in hiring,” said Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald, who worked on the contract negotiations. “We’re facing diversity issues. It would give the new Chief a lot more flexibility in hiring process.” That would also include more flexibility for the Chief in appointing Division Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs.
While the proposal includes pay raises similar to what the other public safety unions received in their recent contracts, it also contains one key difference. “In the first year, instead of getting a wage increase they decided to have those dollars put into their pension fund,” said McDonald. “The first year, there would be 2 percent to their pension fund and they would have additional dollars go to their longevity.” The city would also increase its contribution to the pension fund in the third year of the contract. The proposal includes an optional fourth year, which would also include an increase in the pension contribution.
Those pension fund contributions,
The proposal also includes an agreement to go to the State Capitol next year and seek legislation that would make that contribution to the pension fund permanent. “Let’s say this contract goes away in four years, we would be mandated by the legislature to maintain this level of funding. That’s huge. It’s unprecedented,”
Firefighters would also receive a 3 percent pay raise in the second and third year of the contract, plus a three percent raise in the fourth year if the city exercises its option to extend the agreement. Should the city elect to give other rank-and-file employees a pay raise of less than 2.5 percent in any of those years, the increase for firefighters would be lowered slightly to 2.75 percent.
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