Council asked to approve whopping 6 percent raises for firefighters
Mayor Chris Beutler’s administration has agreed to whopping 6 percent raises for the firefighters in a deal that soon will go before the Lincoln City Council for approval.
The firefighters’ union has agreed to a sweet deal where firefighters would get a 3 percent raise that’s retroactive to Aug. 19, plus another 3 percent Feb. 17.
Although it’s true the firefighters got no cost-of-living raises last year, they did get a coveted minimum staffing provision in exchange, in what critics say is a nationwide firefighter move to secure their jobs and boost their numbers.
These are much better raises than all the other city employees received — their raises ranged from 1 to 2 percent in what was viewed as a sacrifice for the good of the cash-strapped city. (One union, however, hasn’t finished negotiations because it’s appealing to a state arbitration board over retirement benefits.)
Dave Engler, head of the firefighters union, said he doesn’t consider it a 6 percent raise, since they won’t get the second 3 percent until halfway through the fiscal year. That, combined with the fact that firefighters didn’t get a COLA raise last year, “equals 2.25 percent (raises) for the last two years.”
But in an era where many employees aren’t getting raises at all — at the Journal Star, employees have gone without raises for nearly three years — the 3+3 raise looks pretty good.
The proposed labor agreement also changes the longevity bonus from a fixed amount to a percentage of salary, which is another plum for firefighters. For example, right now an employee with 25 years of service gets a flat $2,069 bonus for longevity, but under the new deal, they would get 7 percent of their salary. That could amount to a much bigger bonus for sticking around so long.
There are also changes to the section on minimum staffing (remember the controversy over that new provision about a year ago?) that appear to more clearly define which types of employees count toward the minimum number who must be on duty 24/7.
Another new section gives firefighters an automatic $3.29 per hour raise if they move into a 40-hour-a-week job in administration, training or maintenance.
I’m anxious to hear what the firefighters did to deserve such big raises — aside from contribute more money to Beutler and the Democrats on the council than any other entity in Lincoln. I’m also anxious to hear where the money to pay for this contract will come from, given that the municipal budget only penciled in about 2 percent raises across-the-board.