The City of Santa Barbara reached a tentative agreement yesterday for labor concessions with firefighters. The agreement, equivalent to a 5.5% salary reduction, will provide over $725,000 in labor cost savings for this fiscal year, with $635,000 attributed to the City’s General Fund. The firefighters have been engaged cooperatively with the City for many months to achieve budget relief, in spite of an existing labor agreement that did not require them to negotiate. The Firefighters Association represents 95 firefighters and fire inspectors.
The agreement will generate a significant cost savings to the City, amounting to $726,621 in Fiscal Year 2011 and $419,077 in Fiscal Year 2012. The agreement will increase costs by a modest $63,910 in Fiscal Year 2013. Specifically, the Firefighters Association agreed to:
* Delay receipt of a 3% salary increase that they were entitled to receive last July, with the increase implemented in phases during Fiscal Year 2012;
* Make payments toward their PERS pension benefits of approximately 5% of salary in the last part of Fiscal Year 2011, and 3% in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013;
* Relinquish 24 hours of paid holiday time each year for Firefighters, which will reduce overtime costs; and
* Implement 16 hours per year of furlough or leave without pay for Fire Inspectors in the first two years.
As part of the agreement, the City has agreed to increase medical benefit contributions to help offset increases to premiums and provide two new 1.5% salary increases in Fiscal Year 2013, the last year of the agreement. The City has agreed to maintain minimum staffing levels while concessions are in place.
“We really appreciate the spirit in which the firefighters engaged with the City,” said Kristy Schmidt, the City’s labor negotiator, “While it took us a while to finalize the details of the agreement, the discussions have been positive and solution-oriented from the beginning.”
According to Jeremy Denton, President of the Firefighters Association, “We’re pleased to negotiate a win-win for the City and firefighters. By deferring a raise and paying a portion of our PERS retirement costs, the City will save over $1.1 million in the next two years from a labor group of less than 100 members. This agreement secures minimum firefighter staffing, maintaining high service levels and preventing any brown outs or station closures in the near future. Successful negotiations were based on hard work and patience on both sides of the table, including firefighters, fire management, the City Administrator’s Office and the City Council.”
The extension to the agreement will need to be ratified by a vote of the Association membership, which is tentatively planned for next week, and then by the City Council.
In terms of overall labor concessions, the firefighters join managers, supervisors, and general employees in voluntarily reducing salary and benefits this year to help address the City’s projected $9 million budget shortfall.