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By Tim Hunt

The firefighters wage deal is good for both sides

Uploaded: Aug 27, 2012

Both firefighters and police officers in Pleasanton must realize how good they have it.
The unions for both public safety organizations have agreed to new contracts that reinstate employees paying their full share of the pension contribution. For more than 20 years, Pleasanton had paid both the employee share and the employer share.
That wasn't that unusual (Livermore still is doing so), but as pension costs have skyrocketed prudent city management and elected officials have been taking another look and extracting concessions from union members.
Starting July 1, 2013, both police and firefighters will pay 9 percent of their salaries for pension contributions. That amounts to a 9 percent pay cut.
The city's share varies, but is projected at 33.6 percent for fire fighters and 25.2 percent for police officers.
These huge numbers coupled with the 3 percent of salary at age 50 retirement plans that government units across the state granted to public safety employees when revenue was flush, meant pension plans that were way short of contributions when the actuaries analyze them. Fold in that the state pension plan assumes the investment returns will run at 7.5 percent compounded and elected officials have been betting on a come that likely won't happen.
For the Pleasanton unions, they had an excellent ride (and still have the retirement package) starting in 2000. Their salaries, over 10 years, rose a compounded 55 percent before the reality set in with the economic crisis and three years in a row of no increases. With city revenues dropping, wise heads prevailed and stopped wage increases.
The willingness of the employee groups to work with city management for voluntary concessions perhaps demonstrates the workers know they have it pretty good here.
For a public safety employee, this is quite a safe community to pursue their career with salaries that are comparable or higher than the more dangerous larger cities nearby (think Hayward, Oakland, San Jose or San Francisco) for either cops or firefighters.
Pleasanton looks and is quite safe by comparison.
A starting firefighter makes $5,800 a month, while those at the top salary step (no. 6) make $7,405 or $88,860 annually. To make more than this, a firefighter must be promoted to engineer or captain.
To the critics who whined about this settlement, chill. The city has worked with its unions to reach reasonable accommodations and is one of the leaders in doing in the state.
Yes, the situation needed to be addressed and total employee costs as a percent of the overall budget still need to come down. But, there has been significant movement in the right direction in key groups.