It took nearly a year for Brookfield police and the village to hammer out a new contract after its previous deal expired at the end of 2012, but settling on a new deal with Brookfield’s firefighters was a much easier task.
When village trustees voted unanimously on Dec. 9 to ratify a new three-year deal, they did so three weeks prior to the current contract’s expiration date.
“The relationship between both parties was extremely professional,” said Village manager Riccardo Ginex. “It’s much different than it was years ago.”
Ginex was referring to a not-so-distant past in which Brookfield’s firefighters grudgingly accepted a one-year pay freeze in 2010 rather than swallow layoffs. In the wake of that deal and the turmoil that surrounded it, Brookfield’s firefighters switched union representation from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF).
The two sides hammered out a three-year deal in 2011 that restored pay raises but also required firefighters to pay a bit more for health insurance premiums
“There’s an understanding that the financial situations have changed,” Ginex said. “People are saying, let’s be adults and come to an agreement.”
The latest contract, which expires on Dec. 31, 2016, holds the line on the percentage firefighters pay for health insurance (15 percent) and includes base pay raises of 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 2.5 percent each year of the deal.
But the contract also retains step raises for firefighters during the first six years of their careers, which increase salaries far faster than the base pay raise percentages would suggest.
For example a firefighter starting his career on Jan. 1, 2014 will be paid $56,054. With the step raise included, in 2015 that same firefighter will make $61,697, which is a 10 percent raise. In 2016, his pay will go up to $69,961, a further raise of 13.4 percent.
By the end of the contract a firefighter in his sixth year will be making $87,239. That same firefighter would have been hired in 2010 at a salary of $54,526. In six years, his total pay raise would be 60 percent.
After six years, firefighters no longer are eligible for step raises, according to a salary schedule included in the contract document. Those firefighters receive the base pay raise only each year.
A starting lieutenant will make $90,058 as of Jan. 1, 2014. Lieutenants are afforded step raises in addition to base pay raises for two years after their first at the rank. The lieutenant who began at the rank in 2014 will make $100,325 on Jan. 1, 2016. That’s a total raise of 11.4 percent. After that, lieutenants receive base pay raises only.
One of the more substantive changes in the contract, one requested by the union, according to Ginex, is a provision prohibiting Brookfield firefighters from moonlighting as firefighters or paramedics when they are not on duty in Brookfield.
A stated reason for the provision in the contract is to prevent firefighters from suffering job-related injuries while working elsewhere as a firefighter or paramedic. The village of Brookfield would still be liable for paying disability benefits in such a scenario.
However, said Ginex, the IAFF also would like to see all fire departments in the state employ full-time firefighters instead of opting for paid-on-call personnel.