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posted: 7/18/2013 5:31 PM

Elgin OKs contracts with firefighters, clerical workers

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The city of Elgin has finalized two union contracts with its employees, one of them in arbitration, but will be starting the process all over again in the fall.

The city's contract with Elgin International Association of Firefighters Union Local 439 was settled earlier this month by an arbitrator, Elgin Fire Lt. Vince Rychtanek said.

The two-year contract, which applies to about 130 firefighters, is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012 and calls for a 2 percent raise in 2012, and a 2.5 percent raise this year, he said.

Those are the same raises given to Elgin police union members for 2012 and 2013.

Fire employees hired after July 1, 2012 have to contribute more to their health insurance; the increase applies to all new city hires, officials said.

The fire union had asked for a 3-year contract, to avoid having to renegotiate at the same time as other unions in Elgin, like the police department's, Rychtanek said.

"That's what you get when you go to arbitration. Unfortunately, it means neither side gets what they want, really," he said.

Also, the city council approved last week a new, five-year contract with clerical technical workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 73. Union representative Nicolas Carone said the contract applies to about 92 workers, and is retroactive to December, 2011.

The contract calls for a 2 percent salary increase in 2012, and a 2.5 percent increase this year, he said.

The last three years of the contract are covered by a "me too" clause, which means that workers will get an increase equal to any increase received by police, fire or managerial employees, Carone said.

"Police and fire usually lead the charge in getting a lot of stuff," he said. "We usually like to sit back and see what they get. It's the way it works out sometimes."

The contract also includes increased health care contributions effective Jan. 1, 2014. "It's eating into the wage increase for these guys," he said.

Carone said the new contract reflects the fact that the economy is slowly getting better. He's hopeful that the city will consider increasing staffing levels in the near future, he added. "We lost positions and people are still doing more with less," he said.

City Manager Sean Stegall could not be reached for comment.

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