Firefighters agree to concessions

Glendale firefighters have agreed to salary and benefit concessions that will save the city more than $3 million in the next three years, city officials announced Tuesday.

The Glendale Firefighter's Assn. voted to approve the tentative contract, which would run through June 30, 2014.

The City Council next week is expected to ratify the contract, which includes no pay raises through 2013, higher employee contributions to pension plans and a higher retirement age for all new hires.

""It is obvious from this resolution that the men and women of Glendale's fire department have recognized the critical nature of our economy and the financial constraints under which the city is operating," Capt. Chris Stavros, the union's president, said in a statement.

The tentative agreement makes firefighters the first of the city's four employee groups this year to take major benefit concessions, a key component of the $174-million General Fund budget approved by the City Council last week.

Included in the budget, but not yet secured, was at least $3 million in savings from employee concessions in order to balance a projected $8.1-million gap in the city's General Fund, which pays for most public services, like libraries and public safety.

Firefighters last year voted to postpone a scheduled pay increase for two years. Under the proposed agreement, the raise would be pushed out two more years, meaning firefighters would remain at current salary levels until July 2013.

Firefighters would also pay more into the California Public Employees Retirement System, bringing the firefighter's contribution to 11% out of every paycheck.

Mayor Ara Najarian said the agreement would help maintain current staffing levels during the economic downturn.

"With many communities, including some of our neighboring cities, experiencing the closure of fire stations, furloughs and brownouts, this agreement means we will be able to maintain our current level of outstanding services to the community," he said in a statement.

The contract would also create a two-tier retirement system for all new hires that would raise the retirement age from 50 to 55.

Under a plan approved by the City Council in 2003, firefighters can now retire at age 50 with 3% of their highest salary per year of service.

City officials said the changes would help make the city's long-term pension obligations more sustainable.

Human Resources Director Matt Doyle said the agreement was "very positive" for the city.

"Once again, they stepped up," he said.

Negotiations continue with the city's three other employee unions.

The agreement ratchets up pressure on the Glendale Police Officers' Assn., whose members are due a 5% pay increase starting July 1.

The police union last year declined to reopen its four-year contract, keeping a scheduled 6% pay increase despite City Council pressure to follow the lead of other employee unions.

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