The Brookfield village administration wrapped up its trio of union contract negotiations last week when trustees voted unanimously to ratify a three-year deal with International Association of Firefighter Local 4828, which represents the 19 union firefighters of the Brookfield Fire Department.
There are three separate union bargaining units representing village employees, including firefighter/paramedics, police officers and public works employees. Police are represented by the Illinois Council of Police (ICOPS), while public works employees are represented by Teamsters Union Local 703.
In March the village inked a four-year deal with police, following that last month with a two-year deal for public works employees. All three union contracts expired Dec. 31, 2019.
With the ratification of the firefighters’ deal, the village administration now will be able to stagger contract negotiations instead of having to handle them all at the same time. The firefighters’ contract is retroactive to Jan. 1 and expires Dec. 31, 2022.
Union firefighters voted 9-0 to approve the contract, perhaps indicating the rank-and-file’s general happiness with the terms, which call for annual base pay raises of 2.5 percent.
Like the police and public works contracts, firefighters who have less than seven years of experience are eligible for annual step raises that boost base pay raises above the contracted amount.
For example, a first-year firefighter in 2020 will make a starting salary of $65,331. By the third year of the contract, that same firefighter will be making $81,133, a total salary increase of about 24 percent.
Lieutenants are also members of the union, and they are eligible for two years of step raises. The pay for a first-year lieutenant in 2020 is $104,961. In the third year of the contract, that lieutenant will make $116,345, an increase of almost 11 percent.
The new union deal also includes new language, matching that in both the police and public works contracts, allowing the village the option to join the North Suburban Employee Benefit Cooperative to provide employee health insurance benefits any time after Jan. 1, 2021.
The move, according to an exhibit contained in the contract, would save both the village and employees money in premium costs. Employees are responsible for paying 15 percent of health insurance premiums.
A final fairly major change in the contract lays out in writing the pre-requisites and weighted components of the lieutenants’ promotion process.
Previously, a written exam was given a full 50 percent of the weight for promotion, while the oral interview was weighted at just 15 percent.
The new contract give much more weight to the oral exam, 30 percent, and a little less to the written exam, 40 percent. Three other factors – ascertained merit (which includes special certifications and advanced training), seniority and subjective evaluation are each weighted at 10 percent.
Fire Chief Jim Adams said the change was a mutual one that made sense and was fairer than relying so heavily on the written exam.
“Anyone who studies hard can do well on a written test,” said Adams. “The oral exam [which also includes questions about tactical decision making] is when critical thinking skills come into play. You can’t study for that.”