Brookfield and its firefighters union have hammered out an agreement that will allow the village to hire back a union member laid off in May.

In exchange for recalling the firefighter to active duty for the remainder of the year, Brookfield won concessions from the union regarding holiday pay and tuition reimbursement.

“I am very pleased that we are able to work together to reach an agreement which helps the village in a difficult economic time while allowing one of our employees to be recalled and return to serve the residents of the village,” said Village Manager Riccardo Ginex.

The union agreed to the concessions through the end of the current contract, which expires Dec. 31. According to Al Molinaro, assistant division director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, which represents Brookfield firefighters, the agreement allows Brookfield to maintain the cost cuts it made in May while allowing the laid off firefighter to return to duty.

“We were able to reach an agreement, which is a huge relief,” Molinaro said. “I’m glad that once we got to talking and looking at different options they were open to that. The economic times are such that there’s got to be cuts. We had to find a way to make the numbers match somehow.”

According to the agreement signed Thursday, union members waived their rights to holiday pay for eight holidays remaining in 2009, and including New Year’s Day 2010. Under the contract agreed to in 2007, all union members were paid eight hours for each of 11 holidays and four hours for New Year’s Eve.

In addition, firefighters on duty during a holiday received an additional four hours in pay (two hours for New Year’s Eve). For the remainder of the contract, under the terms of last week’s agreement, firefighters will forgo all holiday pay.

According to Ginex, the additional amount of money paid to firefighters per holiday is roughly $5,000. Eliminating holiday pay for firefighters will save the village roughly $37,500 for the rest of 2009, according to figures provided by the village.

Union members will also waive their rights to tuition reimbursement for the remainder of the contract. Under the terms of the 2007 deal, firefighters were allowed to be reimbursed up to $850 annually toward advanced training approved by the department.

In 2008, the village paid out about $10,000 in tuition reimbursements, according to Ginex, and has paid just over $3,000 in 2009. That perk will be gone for the remainder of the year.

As a result of the concessions, a firefighter/paramedic laid off May 6 will return to active duty on July 3. The savings to the village resulting from the two-month layoff was also factored into the equation, Ginex said.

That firefighter was laid off during a wave of cutbacks resulting in the loss of nine total employees from the village payroll. In addition to the layoffs, the village also cut back business hours at the village hall, instituted mandatory five-day furloughs for all non-union employees and delayed some budgeted expenditures.

Initially, the village approached its union employees to accept furloughs as a way to avoid layoffs and cut costs. Unions refused to agree to the measure.

“When you’re talking about furloughs for an organization like the Chicago Fire department, they have staffing such that they can deal with it,” Molinaro said. “When you’re talking about Brookfield, you’re talking about taking equipment out of service. We couldn’t see how we could make that work.”

With the current firefighters’ contract expiring at the end of 2009, the two sides are expected to open up negotiations on a new contract toward the end of summer, according to Ginex.

Asked if the concession made last week would have an impact on those negotiations, Molinaro said that the union did not consider those concessions a precedent.

“We made it clear to them that the agreement would not be precedental going forward,” Molinaro said. “We recognize it’s not a good time to be going into labor negotiations and we’ll have to take a look at where the village is economically.”

Molinaro said that union members understand that this time around they are unlikely to get the 12- to 16-percent raises they’ve enjoyed over the life of previous multi-year contracts.

“That’s just a reality,” Molinaro said.

Brookfield and Molinaro will also be in union negotiations with two other groups of employees represented by the SEIU, clerical workers and public works employees. Contracts with those employees also expire at the end of the year.