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updated: 10/10/2012 12:08 AM

Aurora firefighters' contract gives lowest raises in 20 years

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The Aurora city council gave final approval Tuesday night to a contract the city reached with its firefighters union last month.

The contract gives the union's 161 members from the rank of firefighter to lieutenant the lowest average pay raises in any three-year contract the city has awarded over the past 20 years, said Alex Alexandrou, chief administrative services officer.

Union members will get a 1.25 percent raise retroactive to 2011 and 2.5 percent raises in 2012 and 2013 under the contract, which was agreed upon after lengthy negotiations -- but without arbitration, Mayor Tom Weisner said.

"It reflects the realization, for all of us, that we're in a difficult economy and we have to act accordingly," Weisner said.

The contract also added vacation buyback and restricted duty provisions to try to reduce overtime payments and changed union members health insurance, effective Jan. 1 2013, Alexandrou said.

Under the new health insurance plan, firefighters will no longer be able to contribute a set percentage of their salaries regardless of what type of coverage they select. Instead, they will pay a percentage of the premium related to their chosen coverage plan. The city, which is self-insured, determines the premium by dividing how much it pays in claims for each insurance plan by the number of employees insured by that plan.

"It helps continue our trend citywide of making our employees better consumers of health care," Alexandrou said.

International Association of Firefighters Local 99 president and Aurora fire Lt. Toby Gill said the union knew concessions would be necessary and tried to be reasonable in reaching an agreement with the city.

Alderman-at-Large Bob O'Connor said this contract, which runs through the end of 2013, fairly takes into account the city's financial situation and provides a good foundation for future negotiations.

"It sets the tone for what is feasible to do," he said.

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