Carpentersville firefighters take cuts to avoid layoffs

Updated 3/16/2011 5:59 PM

Talk about taking one for the team.

The union that represents Carpentersville firefighters and lieutenants has negotiated a three-year contract that calls for a partial salary freeze and several cuts that save $200,000 and spare the village from laying off three firefighters, a move that would have reduced crew sizes.

As well, nonunion upper management has agreed to share some of the pain.

Battalion chiefs will take reduced holiday pay and Chief John Schuldt has tied his salary increase in the 2012-2013 fiscal year to the union's. He and the assistant chief will be covering stations in addition to other responsibilities during the week. The village board approved the deal Tuesday night and it is effective immediately.

"The assistant chief, the battalion chiefs and myself feel that we should all bear part of the burden from trying to prevent these layoffs," Schuldt said. "We think it's a complete team effort from top to bottom."

The contract expired in May 2010 and the union spent almost a year in negotiations with the village. The International Association of Firefighters Local 4790 union represents 24 full-time firefighters and nine lieutenants.

Union President Rick Nieves said open, honest communication with Village Manager J. Mark Rooney, coupled with cuts from management, gave the union confidence to proceed with making their own sacrifices.

"We did what we could to try to help out to keep things the way they are currently," Nieves said. "It just shows we were all working together as a team."

As part of the deal, firefighters agreed to:

• No raise from May 2010 through April 30, 2011.

• A 2-percent pay increase from May 1, 2011, through April 30, 2012, and a 1-percent raise from May 1, 2012, through April 30, 2013. If economic conditions improve in the final year, the union can start negotiations for that time period. Starting pay for a first-year firefighter is $53,488.

• Reduce holiday pay. Instead of getting paid for nine holidays, they'll get paid for two the second year and four the third year.

• Renegotiate the Illinois Substitute Firefighter Act that will allow the department to use part-time firefighters for overtime coverage, thus saving the department overtime costs. Overtime and holiday pay figures were not available Wednesday.

In exchange for their raises, each firefighter is giving up retroactive pay and between $4,000 and $4,500 next year in holiday and overtime pay and between $3,500 and $4,000 the year after that to prevent staff reductions, Schuldt said.

Tuesday night, the board thanked the firefighters for their selflessness.

"The firefighters have helped us and helped themselves by retaining our current firefighting force and our firefighting setup, which allows them to keep the response times that the village has become accustomed to," Village President Ed Ritter said.