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Longevity raises push some firefighter raises over 10 percent

Let’s take a closer look at the proposed fire union contract that goes before the Lincoln City Council today at 3 p.m.
A public hearing will be held, and at the end of the meeting the council should vote on the labor contract.
Set aside the two 3 percent raises — or 6 percent raises — that are getting most of the attention. There’s also a new provision that would change the way the city also calculates a tidy little bonus called “longevity.”
You’re probably confused, since most private sector employees don’t get extra pay just for having stuck around at least five years. (Maybe a paper weight or a plaque.) But this is a seniority-based pay system.
And firefighters currently receive up to $2,069 per year in longevity pay. The new contract, however, would change that from a lump sum to a percentage of their salary.
No big deal, right? Wrong.
Let’s take a firefighter who’s worked 25 years. Their $57,128 salary would get a 6 percent cost-of-living increase, but rather than the old $2,069 in longevity pay, they’d get 7 percent of their salary, which is 4,242. That’s more than $2,000 more than they’d get under the old labor contract. Or a 3.8 percent raise.
Let’s see — 6 percent plus 3.8 percent = 9.8 percent. (And these figures come from the city personnel office.) Not too shabby a raise on the heels of the Great Recession, huh?
Let’s take a fire captain who’s worked for the city for 10 years. They currently make a little more than $67,000. Under the old labor agreement, the captain would get $851 in longevity pay. But under the Mayor Chris Beutler-endorsed union contract, the captain would get $2,140 in longevity. That’s $1,289 more than he/she would have gotten before, or the equivalent of a 1.9 percent salary increase.
That works out to about an 8 percent raise for that captain. Nice, huh?
Think those are probably flukes? Figures calculated by the city personnel office show raises ranging from 7.6 percent to 10.7 percent.
But don’t take my word for it. Read the document yourself: 2010-12-8–Total-Impact-of-Fire-Contract–2010-2011
How will Mayor Beutler justify these kinds of raises for just one group of city employees, when all the other city employees “took one for the team” and accepted paltry (by comparison — many employees would love to have any raise these days) 1 to 2 percent raises this year?
Is it possible this is payback for all the money the firefighters’ union gave Beutler and the Democrat-controlled City Council? The fire union gave more money to the recently elected Democrats than anybody else, by a long shot. So how will the Dems on the council vote on this contract? And how will they justify 7 to 10 percent raises for just one group of employees?
I can’t wait to find out.


Two big street projects coming

The city will be holding open houses next week to tell the public about two big street rehab projects in the pipeline:
• 56th Street from South to Randolph Street — where the city plans concrete base repair, asphalt mill and overlay, curb replacement, new pavement markings, traffic signal work and sidewalk and ramp reconstruction.
South 56th Street is 27 feet wide from South to A streets and 23 feet wide from A to Randolph streets, and the city plans to widen the street and add a common center turning lane.
The open house will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 at Gere Library, at 56th and Normal.
• Pioneers Boulevard from 32nd to 54th streets — will get the same street repairs as 56th, plus replacement of the intersection at 33rd, 40th and 48th streets, new pavement markings, traffic signal work and sidewalk and ramp reconstruction. Pioneers is 27 feet wide, but the city will widen the street to add a common center turning lane.
The Pioneers open house will be at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at Gere Library.
For more information on these projects, call Project Engineer Holly Lionberger at 441-8400.

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