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Firemen granted pay raises via close 4-2 vote by Sunnyside City Council

After deliberating in executive session for 45 minutes last night, the Sunnyside City Council passed a resolution authorizing interim City Manager Jim Bridges to sign a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Firefighters, Local Union No. 3542.

The new agreement gives Sunnyside firefighters a 3 percent increase to the 2009 pay scale, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010. An additional 3 percent raise will be given on Jan. 1, 2011 and then negotiations will determine how much of a raise the firefighters will get in 2012 and 2013.

The last two years will be based on 80 percent of the Seattle consumer price index, but will be no less than a 2 percent increase and no more than a 3.5 percent increase.

For captains in the Sunnyside Fire Department, they will immediately see a 5 percent increase over their 2009 pay scale, which will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010. A 3 percent increase will be given Jan. 1, 2011 and then 80 percent of Seattle's consumer price index for 2012 and 2013, with a minimum of at least 2 percent but no more than 3.5 percent will be implemented.

Once the council was back in open session, Councilman Don Vlieger expressed several concerns about the pay increases. He also noted besides the pay raises the city pays approximately $1,000 a month for benefits for each firefighter.

"Every other city employee except the fire department accepted zero for 2010," Vlieger said.

He said he could see maybe a raise in 2011 but not in 2010, especially, he repeated, since every other city employee accepted no increase in pay for 2010.

"I think it's wrong," he said.

Vlieger also said the other bargaining units will now want 3 percent raises next year.

"I'm really disappointed," Vlieger added.

Councilman Mike Farmer agreed with many of the things Vlieger said.

"I'm not saying the fire department doesn't need a raise," Farmer said. "I'm saying this is not the year for the raise."

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock agreed the city is in tough times but added that contracts expire and the city is in the best position they can be in at this point in time.

Councilman Paul Garcia thought the raises were fair, especially considering the comparable pay for other cities.

Councilman Tom Gehlen added he believed the firefighters union bargained in good faith, although he said he was unhappy with the raise.

The motion to accept the four-year agreement passed 4-2, with Vlieger and Farmer voting no.

International Association of Firefighters Local No. 3542 President Josh Roe said the driving issue was the comparable wages to other cities. He said the city and the fire department's bargaining units came to an agreement they both thought was fair as far as the pay raises were concerned.

He noted that 60 percent of the pay increases will come from the city's general fund, with the other 40 percent taken from the EMS fund.

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