Long Beach Fire Department members battle a fire in Alamitos Beach. Photo: Brittany Woolsey
The Long Beach Fire Fighters Association (FFA) reached a tentative deal with the city Tuesday that would provide salary increases and adjustments for skill pay for the city’s roughly 350 sworn employees for the next three years.
The announcement was made public Tuesday afternoon by the city’s human resources department. In a statement, Mayor Robert Garcia said the agreement would provide similar pay increases that the city had already granted to the Long Beach Police Department and would also make sense for the city’s budget.
“Public safety continues to be the highest priority for the City of Long Beach, and Firefighters are providing lifesaving paramedic, emergency rescue, and firefighting services to Long Beach residents every day,” Garcia said. “This tentative agreement provides our Firefighters with modest wage and skill pay increases consistent with recent raises provided to Police Officers. I want to thank the FFA leadership for working with the City’s negotiating team to develop an agreement that is fair and fiscally sensible.”
The tentative agreement, which came after 13 meetings since May 2016, would be retroactive and run from October 2016 to September 30, 2019. It would provide general salary increases of 3 percent for each of the next three years and provide health care reform provisions which will require the department’s employees to pay a larger contribution to their healthcare costs.
The cap for increases to family coverage was raised by $5 and the agreement provides for benefits to continue for surviving spouses and eligible dependents in the event that an employee dies as the result of their employment. The agreement also allows for additional compensation based on longevity with the department with pay increases kicking in at 20 years of service in addition to the increases already present at 10 and 15 years.
The estimated net cost of the agreement is $3.3 million to the city’s general fund for the 2017 fiscal year and jumps to $7.2 million in the last year of the agreement. An “economic uncertainties” clause allows for the city to reopen the negotiations if the city faces fiscal hardship in the next few years. Any changes made would require mutual agreement from the FFA.
The agreement has been jointly signed by representatives from both the city and the FFA.
“We would like to thank the Mayor, City Council, and City Manager for their support,” FFA President Rex Pritchard said in a statement. “The FFA bargaining team worked diligently with City representatives on reaching a mutually beneficial agreement. We believe this agreement represents fair wage increases for our hard working members.”
A survey carried out by the city and the FFA revealed that firefighter salaries in Long Beach ranked 10th when compared to other regional fire agencies. Cities included in the survey include Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Anaheim and Torrance.
According to Transparent California, a website that tracks public employee salaries, Long Beach Fire Chief Mike Duree made just over $240,00 in regular salary payments in 2015, the last year that data was collected. That figure ranked second among the cities listed in the survey trailing only Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas who earned $291,304 in 2015.
Nearly every employee of the department exceeded $100,000 in annual salary in 2015 when accounting for overtime and other pay. However, in other departments based in the city’s survey, it was not uncommon for rank and file members of other cities to see their total salary compensations soar past $200,000 and $300,000 based on data collected by the website.
The city has also reached terms with three other negotiating groups including the Long Beach Managers Association and the City Prosecutors Association. Those terms as well as a final discussion and vote on the FFA agreement will be visited at the April 18 Long Beach City Council meeting.