When it became clear Lincoln firefighters were headed for double-digit raises this year, in some cases, I started calling around to other union heads to see what their members think of the fact that firefighters will get raises of 7 to 10 percent this year.
Most city employees will get 1 to 2 percent.
I got hold of the presidents of three other city employee unions, but they said they haven’t heard much grumbling from their employees.
Jeff Hillebrand, president of the Lincoln Police Union, said some of his members will complain, but comparing police officers’ raises (1 percent) to firefighters’ (6 percent plus longevity raises of up to 4 percent) would be comparing apples to oranges. (Or more appropriately, comparing apples to watermelons.)
Hillebrand said the city’s negotiators didn’t even offer 1 percent.
“They wanted us to take 0,” he said. The police officers’ salary survey showed they were owed more than 1, and the city’s survey showed they were overpaid, so they met in the middle.
“It’s a tough year for the city, so we weren’t gonna push it,” Hillebrand said.
He said Lincoln police officers earn an average of $60,000 per year; last night Councilman Jon Camp said Lincoln firefighters average $80,000 salaries annually.
Those rebels over in the Public Association of Government Employees weren’t too concerned either, since president Jeff Stump said they expect to get pretty good raises this year, too. PAGE is the union fighting the mayor’s initiative to make retirement benefits less generous for new hires.
And the president of the largest city union, the Lincoln City Employees Association, said while her members haven’t met since the news about firefighter raises came out, she hasn’t heard much complaining that the raises were so much higher than what they got. LCEA negotiated 1.25 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year, president Michele Salvage said.
City officials said firefighters were due the big raises because state law requires that their salaries be commensurate with their peers in similar sized cities, and a joint survey by the city and fire union showed their salaries lagging 10 to 15 percent. I wish someone at the council meeting had asked why the city and union did a joint survey this year, but nobody did.