It appears everybody gave something and everybody got something in negotiations between the City of Bellevue and the firefighters’ union.
A dispute the Bellevue Professional Firefighters Association warned could be headed for arbitration before the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations was resolved after the union accepted the city’s proposed pay increases and the city agreed to make them retroactive to Oct. 1.
The city wanted them to be effective on the day the contract was approved, which was Dec. 10.
The union asked that hourly pay rates for part-time fire officers and medic officers range from $13.75 to $15.94.
The City wanted the high end of that range to be a more modest $13.34, which is the figure established by the final contract.
Rates for part-time firefighter/emergency medical technicians, fire apparatus engineers, and driver medics were never in dispute.
“The city and the union agreed that those hourly rates will range from $9.50 to $12.78 depending on length of service.
The contract ends Sept. 30, 2014.
The dispute pitted the union’s complaint about low wages against the city’s insistence the part-time positions offer convenience.
Firefighters, most of whom are part time, largely set their own hours so long as they work 528 hours in a six-month period.
About three years ago the state ordered Bellevue to move from a volunteer fire department to a fully paid department.
The process is gradual, and currently only the fire chief, an assistant fire chief, four battalion chiefs, three fire captains, two assistant EMS supervisors and a fire inspector are full-time positions.
The rest of the 135-member force are part-time employees.
Larry Chandler, union president, said his members decided not to take their case to the NCIR because the estimated $40,000 to $50,000 cost was prohibitive.
“We decided to get the best we could get,” he said.
He said the city’s insistence on low pay rates is troubling.
“I would say nobody won with this contract,” he said. “The city is saving money, but they’re not setting pay rates that will attract quality personnel.
“That’s not winning, in my eyes.”
Chandler said he is particularly concerned the contract does not provide higher pay for working holidays.
“These guys don’t have to volunteer to pick up a holiday shift,” he said.
““The command staff is going to have to make some decisions if that ever interferes with manning a truck.”
He said the union will continue to press for better pay in future negotiations.
For now, he said, negotiators are ready to take a break.
“We’re just happy it’s over,” he said.