Many Questions Surround Fire Union Agreement

By: WOWT Email
By: WOWT Email

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and the head of the Fire Union told a news conference Wednesday morning they had come to an agreement for a new contract. The Mayor and the Union President, however, admitted there are numerous, significant issues that really are not decided yet.

"Folks, this wasn't negotiations, we made concessions, the city made concessions, and we reached a consensus and that's where we're at today," said Fire Union President, Steve LeClair.

As Channel 6 News reported Tuesday night, the union says it will accept a wage freeze for 2009 and 2010. The agreement then calls for "cost of living" wage hikes in the next three years.

Those wage increases at a minimum would be 3.25 percent and at a maximum would be 5.75 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says consumer price inflation in the last 12 months has been running at minus 2 percent.

Even though there is a wage freeze for 2010, some members of the Fire Department will still get an increase. The Nebraska Court of Industrial Relations handed down a ruling earlier in which it suggested there needs to be an overall pay adjustment within the department.

The city says that adjustment amounts to a one-percent increase in 2010 and again in 2011, but it will not be awarded across the board. The total amount of money involved will be $550 thousand in each of those years.

Beyond those details, the agreement reached becomes less clear. The mayor and the union said language still needs to be ironed out that would address several retirement issues, including the pension shortfall and spiking.

"This is an agreement that we still have a lot of areas to address, we're still several weeks, a month out from having contract language cleaned up," said LeClair.

"There's still a lot of rolling up the sleeves, and discussing point, counterpoint, on a lot more issues," added Mayor Suttle.

The mayor and the union said they managed to come to this agreement in principle after a marathon 72-hour negotiating session over the weekend.

That speed stands in stark contrast to the previous 19 months in which the Fahey Administration was unable to reach a contract deal with either the Police or Fire unions. The old contracts, which have continued in force, expired in December of 2007.

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