A new three-year work agreement between the city and its firefighters became official Tuesday with the unanimous approval of the Lawrence City Commission.
Mayor Bob Walters praised as a "remarkable process" the relatively short and amicable negotiating period that culminated in the pact, the first ever to cover three years.
It will give firefighters pay raises of at least 10 percent over three years. Merit raises could increase that to 18 percent over three years for most firefighters.
Firefighters will receive a 4 percent salary increase in 1992 and 3 percent increases in 1993 and 1994. Firefighters at the top of their wage scales will also be eligible for merit increases of 2.5 percent in July 1992 and 1993 and 3 percent in July 1994. According to city calculations, about 88 percent of the city's 55 firefighters are at the top of their wage scales.
WHILE WAGE adjustment was the most hotly contested issue, the new contract that will take effect in 1992 differs from the current contract in several other ways.
A reclassification clause was included that will adjust the wage scale of minimum-salaried firefighters and lieutenants by 8.19 percent and maximum-salaried firefighters and lieutenants by 8.02 percent in 1992.
The new work agreement also more clearly outlines eligibility and pay for firefighters and lieutenants required to work as acting officers of higher rank. Acting officers take on the duties of a captain or a lieutenant in the event of illness or vacation.
The new contract calls for the list of acting officers to include 12 firefighters and six lieutenants. Under the old contract, only 12 positions were available.
Also, acting officers now will be paid the increased wage at all times. Previously, they received the increased wage only for the time they performed the duties of an officer.
OTHER CHANGES included a provisional reduction in the number of days the firefighters' association can use each year for training and education, a 2.5 percent increase in skill incentive payments, the inclusion of active duty in Kansas military units on the list of those for which firefighters can receive compensation, increases in the city's contribution toward dependent health insurance, increase in the shoe allowance and a new clause outlining the rights of employer and employee.
Changes in the extra board, a major sticking point during negotiations for the current contract, were not proposed by firefighters this time. Commissioners, who had been briefed on the agreement while negotiations were being conducted, voted to accept it after little discussion, during which they praised the participants' conduct during negotiations.
BOB KENT, chief negotiator for the International Association of Firefighters Local 1596, said, "The main reason it went well is because (Assistant City Manager) Rod Bremby was sitting across the table from me. It was good communication all the way around. That's the way I like to do business."
Bremby said City Clerk Ray Hummert had offered valuable insight into the process. He also thanked other members of the negotiating team.
Members of the firefighters union on May 8 had unanimously ratified the work agreement, making the commission's vote the final hurdle to be cleared before it takes effect next year.