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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Council OKs firefighters contract

Spokane Mayor David Condon is close to making his first deal with a public safety union.

The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 on Monday to accept a four-year contract with the Spokane Firefighters Union.

Both sides agreed that the union likely could have forced the city into paying them more had they entered arbitration. And yet the new contract will add about $1.3 million in costs to the city next year.

Condon is proposing that those costs come in the form of other cost cuts to the fire department.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams has made three suggestions for savings that include losing four to 16 positions. One option, he said, is to close a fire station.

“I am going to be supporting the contract, but I’m going to do so going down kicking and screaming,” said Councilman Mike Fagan. He joined council member Ben Stuckart, Mike Allen, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref in supporting the deal.

Council members Steve Salvatori and Nancy McLaughlin voted against the deal.

Fagan and most other members of the council said they oppose at least some aspects of the state law requiring that stalemated contract negotiations with public safety unions be settled by an arbitrator.

Some council members who supported the deal noted that binding arbitration was created to prevent firefighters and police officers from striking. They also said they risk their lives on some incidents and deal with horrific scenes.

“They make more money than me, and there’s a reason for that,” said Council President Ben Stuckart.

The deal, which still needs to be approved by union members, would freeze pay in 2012 and 2013 and raise pay by 1.9 percent in 2014. Union members received a 3 percent pay raise in January, but the city considers that the union’s 2011 pay raise, which the union agreed to delay as part of an earlier concession. In 2015 members would get a raise equal to the consumer price index, from zero to a maximum of 3 percent.

The contract would pay 100 percent of firefighters’ and their families’ medical premiums in 2013. That’s up from 82.5 percent. In 2014, firefighters agreed to cover any increase in the cost of medical coverage above 4 percent.