City Council passes compensation increases for fire battalion - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

City Council passes compensation increases for fire battalion chiefs

SPOKANE, Wash.- Monday night the Spokane City Council vote on and passed a proposed increase in the total compensation of union members in the Spokane Association of Fire Officers.  Council passed the new contract with a vote of 5 - 2.  Council Members Michael Allen and Nancy McLaughlin both voted no on the new contract.

The new contract increases salary to about 5 percent annually over the next four years and come on the heels of an announcement last week that the fire department may have to lay off some firefighters.

The unit is made up mostly of battalion chiefs, the on-scene commanders at fires and other emergencies. According to the Spokesman Review, in 2008, battalion chiefs who had served in their positions for four years or more earned between $108,000 and $123,000, depending on their experience level.

Officials say they realize the increases come at a time when many workers, especially in the private sector, are either losing jobs or seeing their pay slashed. But they say the agreement could actually be good for taxpayers.

The Spokesman Review reported that Spokane City Administrator Ted Danek had said even with a recession, the contract is consistent with what the fire officials make in departments of similar size. An attempt to pay less would have likely ended up with an arbitrator coming in who would set pay based on what other cities pay, and that could have ended up being even more.

As part new contract, the union also agreed to give up two of its 12 positions - one overseeing emergency medical services and another overseeing training. Under the new reorganization, the department will have a chief, an assistant chief and three deputy chiefs. Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said the new flow chart is based on the management design of the Spokane Police Department.

City officials have said they hope to gain concessions from city unions in the coming months to prevent the kind of massive layoffs and service reductions that the city experienced at the end of 2004.
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