City of Lawrence, local firefighters union open negotiations on new contract

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on Jan. 31, 2023.

The City of Lawrence and the union representing local firefighters are negotiating a new contract, with their current agreement set to expire at the end of the year.

In a statement shared with the Journal-World Tuesday, the city announced that it recently began negotiating with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1596 on a memorandum of understanding concerning compensation and working conditions for represented members.

“Pursuant to City Resolution 7511, the parties were required to start discussions by April 20 for a new agreement to take effect on Jan. 1, 2025,” the city’s statement reads. “Both groups look forward to a fruitful negotiation process.”

The brief statement doesn’t go into any detail about the issues being discussed in the negotiations beyond saying that they concern compensation and working conditions. But Seamus Albritton, the president of IAFF Local 1596, does detail the union’s requests of the city in a letter shared with City Manager Craig Owens. The letter was included with a recent Douglas County Commission agenda, since the county also participates in negotiations.

The letter details a dozen requests, many of them related to finances, from the group of union-represented employees. The full list is as follows:

• Make adjustments to current pay structure and paid time off benefits to improve the market position of represented employees’ total compensation package.

• Maintain market-competitive retirement benefits by establishing an employer contribution program into a deferred compensation account.

• Increase support for employees enrolled in paramedic school by improving covered leave and benefits and alleviate the burden of increased academic requirements.

• Provide additional compensation to employees proficient in one or more languages in demand within the community, and offer tiered stipends based on an employee’s level of education.

• Establish a Healthcare Savings Account or other similar account with an employer contribution program.

• Secure budgetary allocations for proposed conferences that mutually benefit employees and the fire department.

• Work with city and fire department officials to limit nonemergency transfers in and out of Douglas County during the evening hours of a duty shift.

• Provide cancer insurance coverage and recognize job-related cancer deaths as line of duty incidents.

• Allow peer representatives to be active participants during disciplinary procedures.

• Increase workers compensation benefits “above and beyond” what is required by the state and what the city currently offers.

• Establish a program allowing members to “bid” fire station vacancies.

• Provide additional compensation to represented employees who live within Douglas County.


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