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updated: 11/27/2012 9:32 PM

Aurora fire management raises mirror union contract

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Management employees in the Aurora Fire Department will receive the same rate of pay increases as the firefighters they oversee under a three-year contract approved Tuesday night.

The contract gives a 1.25 percent raise retroactive to 2011 and 2.5 percent raises in 2012 and 2013 to the 27 captains, battalion chiefs, assistant chiefs and the fire marshal represented by a non-union organization called the Aurora Fire Officers Association.

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The wage increases are "low compared to historic previous agreements with this group," said Alex Alexandrou, chief administrative services officer.

They match the pay raises approved in October for 161 members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 99, which Alexandrou said were the lowest average raises in any three-year contract with the city over the past 20 years.

Members of the association meet with city staff to set terms of each contract, but they do not negotiate wages, said Battalion Chief Dave Rygh. Instead, wage increases are set to mirror those negotiated by the firefighters union.

"I think it's a fair way to do things," Rygh said, because the pay gaps between ranks remain consistent.

The contract moves association members to a new health insurance plan previously put in place for several Aurora employee groups and bargaining units.

Under the plan, fire department managers will no longer be able to contribute a set percentage of their salaries regardless of what type of health insurance 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.

A new drug testing policy also becomes effective with the contract approved Tuesday night. Alexandrou said the policy recently was updated to match federal regulations, and the fire officers association is the first to agree to it.

"We hope that will be a template for the rest of the city," Alexandrou said.

The policy includes a definition of designer drugs: substances that may not be listed in the Illinois controlled substances act, but "have adverse effects on perception, judgment, memory or coordination." It also lowers the blood-alcohol concentration needed in order to prompt a drug and alcohol test for "reasonable suspicion" of use from .04 to .02, Alexandrou said.

The contract is effective until Dec. 31, 2013.

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