(December 15, 2005, updated incl. Firefighter Union react) -- By a vote of 182-61, members of the LB Firefighters Association on December 13 ratified a three-year contract negotiated with city management (and subject to Council approval) that includes a 15% salary increase over three years (3% salary increases in 6-month increments starting retroactively November 1 and thereafter April 1, 2006; October 1, 2006; April 1, 2007; and October 1, 2007)...and will begin paying 1% of their Public Employee Retirement System costs on April 1, 2006, and pay an additional 1% on April 1, 2007.
"This contract demonstrates employees' understanding of the significance of that impact. Fire personnel will begin to contribute to the their PERS retirement in 2006," City Manager Jerry Miller said in a City Hall release.
The new contract also includes cost sharing language for a portion of future increases in health insurance benefit costs.
"Competition for public safety employees is intense. Contract negotiations in this environment, and at a time when the City is struggling to overcome a structural deficit in the General Fund, have been a challenge. However, this contract, when paired with the agreement recently reached with the Police Officers Association, demonstrates the City Councilís commitment to public safety. It is a significant step in making Long Beach public safety salaries more competitive within the marketplace," said Kevin Boylan, City Hall's Director of Human Resources.
[Dec. 16 update] Reies Montes, Acting President of LB Firefighters Association, Local 372 commented for LBReport.com:
"The contract provides for the first salary increase for firefighters since October 2001. The new contract provides for a 15% base salary increase over the next three years, and requires firefighters to share a greater percentage of healthcare costs, as well as share in retirement costs.
"We consider this contract the first step in our hope of eventually achieving financial parity with competing fire departments. Our firefighters are among the most motivated and highly trained professionals in the state and deserve recognition of this in the form of competitive salary and benefits.
"Firefighters ratified this contract aware of the economic issues facing the City of Long Beach and are respectful of the Cityís desire to overcome these financial challenges. As such, we are pleased to have reached this agreement with the City and trust that future negotiations will continue to address safety, staffing, and compensation.
"Our commitment, now and always, is to the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of Long Beach."