Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver Fire Chief Nick Nuanes and International Association of Firefighters Local 858 President Patrick Rhoades today announced terms of an agreement to help balance the City’s 2009 budget.
Denver Firefighters Local 858 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City to alter a collective bargaining agreement previously approved by the union and create a savings of $2.9 million. That agreement became effective Jan. 1, 2009 and runs through Dec. 31, 2011. The MOU was ratified by 96% of voting union members.
“We very much appreciate Local 858’s willingness to work with us to find savings measures that allow us to balance the City’s 2009 budget,” said Hickenlooper. “It’s important in these tough economic times that we all lock arms and shoulder the burden together. This helps us avoid layoffs and continue to provide superior public safety services to the people of Denver.”
Terms of the agreement include:
• The City will not make its planned contribution of one percent (1%) per year of base pay on behalf of each fire fighter to either the Fire and Police Pension Association Statewide Heath Care Defined Benefit Plan (FPPA plan) or the Post Employment Heath Plan (PEHP) for the period of April 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010;
• A $500 cleaning and maintenance allowance per firefighter will not be paid in 2009;
• Firefighters will forego a paid holiday for their birthday in 2009; and
• The agreement may be repeated for 2010 at the Mayor’s request.
In exchange for these concessions, the City has agreed to add 52 hours of sick leave to every fire fighter’s bank of accumulated sick leave by Oct. 30, 2011. In the event that the City asks for the optional concessions in 2010, it will add an additional 52 hours of sick leave to each fire fighter’s bank of accumulated sick leave by Oct. 20, 2011.
“Denver’s firefighters have always felt that we are more than just employees of the city. We feel we are part of our community. And as part of that community we know it is sometimes not only prudent, but necessary that we act for the community as a whole,” Rhoades said. “This decision by Denver’s firefighters comes at great personal sacrifice. But we feel that it is absolutely critical to have fire apparatus on the streets and keep our brave firefighters where they belong, in fire houses helping those in need.”
“I am extremely proud of both the diligent efforts of Mayor John Hickenlooper’s administration and the extraordinary consideration of Denver Firefighters Local 858 in providing economic relief to the City and County of Denver in these difficult budgetary times,” said Nuanes. “The fire service has a long and illustrious history of being one large family and the union membership has overwhelmingly supported this initiative to extend a hand to our extended family, the Denver community, during this time of great need.”
As part of a plan issued by Hickenlooper in November 2008 to close an anticipated $56 million gap in the City’s 2009 budget, the City has been in negotiations with its public safety departments – for which salaries are negotiated through collective bargaining – to find $4.9 million (or 2%) in personnel savings from the Police, Fire and Sheriff departments.
The City reached an agreement with the Denver Police Union to achieve 2% savings in that department as well. The City explored many alternatives to find the 2% savings in the Sheriff Department that would have allowed their entire workforce to take a smaller increase in pay or furloughs this year in order to keep everyone employed – just as all other City workers have done – but those options were not approved by the deputy sheriffs or their union.
In addition to the 2% savings asked of the collective bargaining units, the City also saved $22.2 million in operational savings, plans to use about $12 million of the City’s financial reserve funds, saved $4.5 million by holding merit increases for Career Service employees to 2.25% in 2009 (a reduction of 2% – the same being asked of collective bargaining units), and $5.4 million by suspending the employee bonus plan for 2009. Additionally, the Mayor and his Cabinet agreed to forgo 2009 raises completely.
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