Elgin, firefighters union agree on contract after nearly 2-year delay
After 20 months at the bargaining table, the city of Elgin and its firefighters union have agreed on a contract that largely mirrors the previous one.
The contract, approved by the city council without discussion Wednesday night, is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, and calls for 2.5% pay increases across the board for the 127 members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 439.
That's the same pay increase received by other city employees, both union and nonunion. The new contract ends Dec. 31, 2021.
Starting Jan. 1, the salary range for firefighters will be $72,347 to $96,426. The range for lieutenants will be $103,934 to $113,035, and for captains it will be $123,109 to $142,514.
Both sides said they were pleased to reach an agreement without resorting to an independent arbitrator. The union filed a demand to bargain in October 2017 and the first face-to-face bargaining session was in April 2018.
"I'm really proud of what we delivered for the firefighters," Local 439 President Joe Galli said.
City spokeswoman Molly Gillespie said the negotiations were "challenging but respectful."
"A responsible agreement addressing the principle objectives of both the city and the firefighters' union has been reached through compromise by both parties," she said.
Gillespie didn't answer questions about why the negotiations lasted so long and what the sticking points were.
The long negotiations stemmed from two issues, Galli said.
The city wanted to impose a cap on unused vacation days that firefighters can roll over into the next year, he said.
In return, the union mainly wanted the city to give the firefighters more notice -- currently it's 30 days -- about any cuts to daily staffing, and also wanted more time -- currently also 30 days -- for the union to respond to such notices, Galli said.
In the end, both parties agreed to walk away without those changes, Galli said.
"It was two years of back-and-forth to get to agree on the issues and because we couldn't get to it, we basically called it quits," he said.
The new contract has the same salary increases and health insurance provisions as the last one, and minor changes about things like assignments that the firefighters are pleased with, Galli said.
Union members have voted to accept the contract, he said.