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updated: 3/4/2014 8:10 AM

Des Plaines approves new firefighter contract

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Des Plaines firefighters will receive salary increases but have to pay more toward their health care costs, under terms of a new collective bargaining agreement approved Monday by the city council.

Aldermen voted 7-1 to approve the four-year contract, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. Seventh Ward Alderman Mark Walsten voted against the pact.

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The agreement covers 85 firefighters, lieutenants and captains represented by International Association of Firefighters Local 4211.

The contract calls for raises of 2.25 percent in 2013, 2.25 percent in 2014, 2.5 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016 -- wage increases that city officials say are modest and competitive in the current market.

Under the agreement, firefighters enrolled in PPO plans will now pay 12 percent of health insurance premiums, an increase from the current 10 percent. Those in HMO plans will contribute 7 percent, an increase from 5 percent.

Firefighters' prescription drug co-pay costs will also increase.

The new negotiated numbers on health insurance are the same as percentages paid by nonunion employees and five other union groups. The sixth, the union representing police officers, is currently in negotiations for a new contract.

Also under the firefighters' contract, the city will no longer provide a $700-750 stipend for uniform-related purchases, and it has the option of starting a "quartermaster system" in which the fire department would maintain a supply of uniforms and make purchases when needed. Fire Chief Alan Wax said the move could save the city money.

Wax said negotiations for a new contract started in late 2012 but faced delays because the union's chief negotiator retired and the city's human resources director resigned to take a job with the village of Lake Zurich.

A federal mediator conducted three mediation sessions to clear up outstanding issues between the two sides, which finally came to agreement Feb. 14, Wax said.

On Friday, the union's membership voted to ratify the contract.

The approval of the firefighters' pact leaves police officers as the only Des Plaines employee union group without a new contract. Officers are working under terms of the old contract, which ran from Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2011.

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