Glendale firefighters agree to delay raises

Glendale firefighters have agreed to cut a 4.5% promised cost-of-living raise to 2.5% in 2013 as the city continues to ask for employee concessions to save money.

In 2015, firefighters are set to get a second 3.5% increase, bringing the total increase to 6% increase over the life of the four year contract. Foregoing the full raise at the beginning will save the city $900,000.

In addition, the union has agreed to increase employee pension contributions on a graduated scale from 11% to 12.5% of their salary by 2015. That change puts them on par with the police union and will save the city about $365,000 throughout the life of the contract, which expires in June 2016.

Police currently contribute the most toward retirement benefits, followed by general managers at 11%, general employees at 9.5% and electrical workers at 8.5%.

The firefighters’ increased retirement contributions are a big plus to Glendale, which like other cities, is struggling with rising pension costs, officials said.

On Tuesday, City Council members applauded the union for amending and extending their 2014 contract before unanimously approving the agreement at a City Hall meeting.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she attended a multi-city conference recently and officials from other cities were stunned that Glendale’s firefighters were willing to delay their promised raise.

“They said, “What did you did you do? Did you have to force them to do it?’ No they just volunteered to do it because they knew that we had a revenue problem in the city as all the cities do and we have our issues with pensions and salaries,” Friedman said.

The city has been facing economic hardships for six consecutive years, according to a city report. While Glendale has been seeing slow growth in revenue streams hit hard by the protracted recession, monetary demands by the state have cast a shadow over the bright spot.

While police salaries were cut by 2% in 2011 and general employees saw a 1.5% reduction in 2010, firefighters did not get their paychecks nicked because they have a multi-year contract while the other unions are on one-year contracts, said Human Resources Director Matt Doyle.

“With the economy the way it is, we’re hesitating to engage in multi-year contracts,” Doyle said, adding that it was “hard to say” whether the firefighter contract may morph into a one-year agreement in the future.

Other unions have asked for multi-year contracts, but haven’t received them.

The firefighters haven’t received a cost-of-living raise since 2008. Police, rank-and-file employees and managers all agreed to no salary or cost-of living increases this fiscal year, a concession they’ve made before.

Glendale’s only remaining union without a contract, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, turned down a city contract several months ago and protested outside City Hall, partially because they did not want to contribute more toward retirement benefits.

The new firefighter contract also includes a $43,000 early retirement incentive for those who leave before the end of the year. The money directly goes to post-retirement medical costs. The city doesn’t pay for healthcare coverage after retirement, but unused vacation and sick time is converted into healthcare savings.

As many as 12 employees are expected to take the retirement incentive and the city does not plan to refill those positions.

About 115 city employees applied for a separate early retirement incentive earlier this month and are expected to leave their posts before September.


Follow Brittany Levine on Twitter and Google+ 

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World