City reaches tentative pact in negotiations with Fire employees
City negotiators have reached agreements with two of the City’s public safety employee associations that would result in significant annual savings to the City. The tentative agreement must be approved by the City Council before it will take effect.
Although anticipated savings are only estimates and can be affected by a number of variables, City staff estimate savings from the two agreements could be more than $1 million annually, beginning in the first year of the new contracts.
The Redlands Professional Firefighters Association and the Redlands Association of Fire Management Employees along with the City’s negotiators drafted the agreements which will go before the City Council at the Oct. 16 meeting.
Among other provisions, the new agreements require employees in both units to increase their contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System packages. The agreements also lower the percentage of service retirement benefits available for new hires in accordance with AB 340 to the state plan’s formula for public safety employees of 2.7 percent of the employee’s salary, for each year worked, based on the final 36 months of salary prior to retirement. Employees would be eligible to retire with the full benefit at age 57. Beginning with approval of the agreements by the council, current employees will pay half of the 9 percent employee contribution under the Public Employees Retirement System for the first year and the full 9 percent after the second year. Employees hired after the agreement takes effect will pay the full 9 percent contribution. Savings are anticipated to be more than $330,000 in each of the first two years of the contracts. Additional savings could be realized in succeeding years as more new employees are hired.
The new agreement also changes the formula for calculating overtime pay to include only actual overtime worked. Currently Fire Department employees can include paid time off in their calculations of overtime if the employee works additional hours even if they don’t actually work more than the maximum 53 hours per week. The new agreement excludes such calculations. While a number of other variables may affect the estimated savings, potential savings to the City, based on a limited sampling of past overtime use, are estimated at approximately $864,000 annually.
The new agreement changes a provision of the current contract known as minimum staffing, which requires a minimum number of firefighters working each shift. The current agreement requires 18 firefighters working at all times. The provision sometimes results in increased overtime costs as firefighters are called in to cover shifts for ill or vacationing personnel in order to maintain the 18-person minimum. The new agreement lowers the minimum staffing level to 17 firefighters per shift. The annual savings are estimated at $496,000.
The new agreement caps City contributions to employee medical premiums and requires employees to pay half of all future increases beginning in January 2014. The estimated savings are approximately $8,700 annually.
While the City rejected any proposals for across-the-board pay increases, in exchange for the benefits concessions, the City added a new “step” at a 3 percent raise for qualifying employees. Employees who achieve the new step would be required to contribute the full 9 percent employee share of retirement contributions. The annual cost to the City in the first year is estimated at a little more than $100,000 for the first year, increasing to almost $220,000 in Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
Employee furloughs, which amounted to 2.27 percent of employee pay, were also eliminated, at an estimated cost of $166,000 annually.
If approved, the agreement will be in effect until June 30, 2015.
“These have been very productive negotiations with our labor partners in the Firefighters and Fire Management associations,” said Mayor Pete Aguilar. “The Council appreciates the spirit of cooperation the association members exhibited in reaching an agreement that continues to move the City forward in providing financial stability and sustainability for our residents and our employees.”
The City Council began negotiations with seven of the City’s nine employee bargaining units in February with the goal of achieving concessions on benefit costs, especially retirement and health benefits, and controlling overtime costs. Bargaining units representing Redlands Police officers unilaterally exercised an extension of their existing contracts. Negotiations with the remaining bargaining units are continuing and the City Council is optimistic that agreements will be reached with those groups soon.