Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Wichita firefighters have a working contract after what has been described at times as almost hostile, contentious negotiations.
The Wichita City Council voted Tuesday 6-0 to extend the terms of the 2009 contract. Council member Sue Schlapp was absent and did not vote.
"It's been a long negotiating process," International Association of Firefighters President Rocky Bumgarner said.
It was a long negotiating process that resulted in both the city and firefighter's union getting a mediator, and then a fact finder's report to try for an agreement.
In the end, city negotiators recommended the council reject a fact finder's recommendation of a 1/2 % overall pay raise, which they did. Firefighters will be working under the same contract this year as last.
There won't be an overall pay raise. However, about 60% of the firefighters will get 2 1/2 % merit raises. The others won't get the merit raises because they're at the top of their pay scales.
"I think as a fire union we know times are tough in the economy, and other bargaining unions accepted zero percent. The half percent was always about reciprocity with other exempt personnel in the city," Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner also pointed out that the contract was more about minimum mandatory staffing. That had to do with the minimum number of firefighters assigned to fire stations. The fact finder's report had recommended keeping at least 118 firefighters on duty at all times. It is a number the two sides have not agreed on.
"On any given day there are a number of firefighters assigned to our 22 fire stations. There has been discussion about what the right number of firefighters should be," Bumgarner explained.
The council did approve extra wellness days for firefighters who didn't use a sick day last year.
Negotiations will likely resume in the coming weeks. There is discussion that the two negotiating teams from each side can work harder to work out their differences in a more harmonious way.
"We both have to figure out how to come to the table in a respectful manner and in the best interest of the firefighters."