Elgin, firefighters agree on contract after long negotiations

 
 
Posted7/14/2016 5:22 AM

After more than two years of negotiations, the city of Elgin and its firefighters union agreed on a contract, overcoming a sticking point regarding minimum staffing.

The contract, approved by the city council without discussion Wednesday night and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014, states the city will give the International Association of Firefighters Local 439 a 30-day notice regarding changes -- as long as they are not temporary -- to the number of personnel on duty for each shift.

 

The union will have 30 days to respond.

After negotiations hit an impasse and mediation failed, the city and the union were preparing for arbitration, but then they successfully settled the contract, said Gail Cohen, Human Resources Director for the city of Elgin.

The contract allows for long-term emergency services planning while giving firefighters a seat at the table, Fire Chief John Fahy said.

"The best contract terms are the ones that are mutually agreed to at the bargaining table," Fahy said. "After many good faith bargaining sessions, Local 439 and the city achieved such an agreement."

Local 439 President Vince Rychtanek didn't respond to a request for comment.

Along with back pay, firefighters get 2.5 percent yearly raises for the duration of the contract.

That's the same raise police officers got in their contract starting Jan. 1, and the same raise both fire and police got last time around.

This year's base pay for a firefighter is $65,543, with step increases up to $87,357 after five and a half years.

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The base pay for lieutenants is $94,159 and the base pay for captains is $111,530.

Firefighters with 20 years of experience can also pick their shift, station and vehicle assignments every two years, a benefit previously available only to lieutenants.

As a result of the settlement agreement, the union agreed to drop its lawsuit against the city regarding minimum staffing, Fahy said.

An arbitrator's ruling in March 2015 had allowed the city to reduce fire staffing from 36 to 34 people, and the union was seeking a judge to strike that ruling.

However, the union still has a pending Illinois Labor Relations Board complaint against the city, filed after three firefighters -- including Rychtanek -- were told to cut their hair, which they had been growing to protest their lack of contract. The complaint was not discussed during contract negotiations, Fahy said.

"We didn't bring it up, and neither did they."

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