The village of Brookfield and its firefighters union came to terms on a new three-year contract Monday night, clearing the way for new multi-year contracts for its public works and clerical employees as well.

Firefighters had been working without a contract since Jan. 1, when its most recent deal – accepted grudgingly in the face of a village-wide cash crunch – expired. That previous one-year contract avoided layoffs and included a wage freeze that firefighters vowed they wouldn’t accept again.

The village board voted unanimously to accept the deals, which were unanimously approved by the various bargaining units.

“We really had great discussions,” said Village Manager Riccardo Ginex on Monday night. Pressed for further comment, Ginex demurred, saying there would be a joint press release, which was not immediately available, issued by the village and firefighters union.

That show of collaboration is in stark contrast to 2010, when one fire negotiator said, “It’s hard to negotiate with a gun to your head.”

This is the first contract firefighters have negotiated through their new union representation – the International Association of Firefighters. Previously, the department had been represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). 

The new contract, which is retroactive to Jan. 1 and expires Dec. 31, 2013, includes both base pay and step raises each year. The raises in base pay are 2.5 percent in both 2011 and 2012 and 2 percent in 2013.

Including step raises, however, actual annual increases in base pay could be anywhere between 3 and 13 percent, depending on where a firefighter falls on the salary schedule.

Many of Brookfield’s firefighters are longtime employees who have already graduated off the step scale, which ends after six years of employment. Those employees will receive the base pay raise only.

The starting salary for a firefighter in 2011 is $52,307. In 2012, for example, that same firefighter would earn $57,287, a raise of 9.5 percent. A firefighter with six years of experience in 2013 will earn $80,607.

Lieutenants are also covered under the contract. The starting salary for a lieutenant in 2011 is $84,038. By 2013, that lieutenant would be making $92,698, an increase of 10.3 percent over three years.

In exchange for the raises, firefighters have agreed to increase their contributions for health insurance premiums. Beginning in 2011, firefighters will pay 12.5 percent of their premiums, an increase of 2.5 percent from the previous contract. In 2012 and 2013, firefighters will pay 15 percent of that cost.

Also restored in the new contract were holiday pay, training reimbursements and uniform allowances. All of those had been eliminated from the 2010 contract in exchange for a promise not to lay off any firefighters.

“It works,” said Ginex of figuring the raises into the village’s budget. “We planned very well and held the line on a lot of things. We have money in contingencies that can cover that.”

When firefighters voted to accept the contract two weeks ago, said Ginex, it set the wheels in motion to get new deals done with public works and clerical employees, who are represented by SEIU. Their contracts, which also included wage freezes, were set to expire Dec. 31, 2011.

Ginex said he approached both groups and let them know he would be willing to reopen salary negotiations on those contracts as long as the employees accepted the insurance givebacks. Both bargaining groups accepted the offer. Public works employees also get annual step raises, while clerical workers do not.

Their new contracts will become effective July 1 and end Dec. 31, 2013.

In addition, with all of the union contracts now resolved, non-union employees, with the exception of Ginex, will receive pay raises of 2.5 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. Those employees have had their pay frozen for the past two years.

Ginex, who works under the terms of a contract, typically has that contract renewed – including any salary increases – in the fall. He has also had his pay frozen for the past two years.