Preparedness & Recovery

Anchorage Firefighters Forgo Pay Raises in New Union Contract Deal

The new agreement, if approved by the Assembly, would save the city close to $1 million for unpaid wage increases that had been negotiated in better times.

by Devin Kelly, Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage / June 7, 2017
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(TNS) - Anchorage firefighters have agreed to forgo a pay raise this year under a new labor deal negotiated between the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the local fire union, according to documents submitted to the Anchorage Assembly for its meeting next week.

The new agreement, if approved by the Assembly, would save the city close to $1 million for unpaid wage increases that had been negotiated in better times. The agreement would void an existing contract that had called for raises this year.

The labor contract is between the city and the local branch of a national union, the International Association of Firefighters Local 1264.

In place of the original contract, the city would establish a new three-year contract that starts in July and would include rising contributions from the city to the firefighter medical trust, but a pay raise in only the second year of the contract. In recent years, contracts have typically spanned three years and included annual raises of 1.5 percent. Since 2011, inflation in Anchorage has averaged 1.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The memo to the Assembly about the contract doesn't explain the reasons for the renegotiated contract or how it came about. City and union officials declined to elaborate Tuesday, with city manager Mike Abbott indicating that Berkowitz did not want to comment so soon after firefighter Ben Schultz was critically injured during a training exercise Monday afternoon. Officials abruptly canceled a news conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday morning about the new contract.

Union president Mike Stumbaugh also declined further comment Tuesday.

It's unusual for a labor union to renegotiate a deal without pay raises. The new contract would expire in 2020 but firefighters will get a 1.5 percent raise only in 2019.

As a result, the city would save $800,000 this year in labor costs, according to documents submitted to the Anchorage Assembly. Over three years and including wages and benefits, the  new contract would cost $2.5 million less than the current contract, the documents show.

Members of the fire union ratified the new deal on May 20. The union represents about 350 employees.

The Assembly is slated to hold a public hearing on the new contract the second week of July.

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©2017 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska)

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