After almost a year of negotiations, an updated labor contract between the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and the local firefighters union is poised to be officially approved later this month.
The tentative agreement between the department and the union includes 13% worth of general wage increases spread over 3-1/2 years, a paramedic premium increase pay from 8% to 10%, short-term staffing policies, and a comprehensive drug- and alcohol-testing policy.
The Pleasanton City Council expressed unanimous support for the proposed contract during a special meeting on Tuesday, which was meant to introduce the new agreement publicly so that councilmembers can take a vote on July 19 during its regular meeting.
The Livermore City Council approved the agreement during Monday's regular council meeting, according to Livermore City Manager Marianna Marysheva. The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1974 membership ratified the contract on June 18.
Union president Joe McThorn told the Weekly that it was a positive change working with both new city managers after a decade of issues with past administrations.
"I'm real happy that we have the new city managers of both cities, and new (human resources) director to be able to make this happen," McThorn said. "Without those three and without both mayors and the council's getting involved, I don't think we were going to get a contract with the old (human resources) director and the old city management."
He said that he's excited start fresh and hopes that with this new contract, more firefighters will take an interest in working for Livermore and Pleasanton.
"This new administrative staff and new fire chief puts us back into that destination fire department where other firefighters want to come and want to be," McThorn said.
In the new tentative agreement, set to run until June 30, 2025, LPFD employees will see a 5.5% increase in their salary starting the first full pay period after the contract is approved. In 2023, the increase will be 3.5%, followed by a 3% increase the next year and a 1% increase in 2025 -- to get to the full 13%.
According to Transparent California, a database that lists the compensation of public employees in California, firefighter-paramedics in the LPFD make anywhere between $110,000 and $115,000 a year in base salary.
If the contract is ratified by Pleasanton, the average pay would go up to a maximum of $121,680, according to the Pleasanton city staff report. By the end of 2025, that number would go up to $131,019. Employees would advance one salary step in their respective jobs until they reach the top step of the applicable salary range.
"I understand and agree with the verbalized support given to support our firefighters and find an agreement that can provide them fair compensation and in a safe working environment," Pleasanton City Councilmember Jack Balch said at Tuesday's meeting.
The three-year financial impact to the LPFD budget is approximately $6.57 million through June 2025 and will be shared between Livermore and Pleasanton, according to city staff.
"I'm happy to see this agreement ... completed," Councilmember Kathy Narum said. "Especially as we go into fire season so that our firefighters can concentrate on what I think they like to do and that's to serve and protect our community -- and with the fire last week up in the Ridge, I think it was a good reminder."
Narum was referencing a wildland fire that broke out on Pleasanton Ridge on June 23, which forced Golden Eagle Way residents to evacuate for almost eight hours.
She also said she appreciated the part of the new agreement where any old grievances filed by the union were to be dismissed so that the department could start fresh.
"There were a number of grievances that IAFF had filed, one that was a potential new one," said Debra Gill, former director of human resources and labor relations. "What the both parties agreed to is just dropping any of the grievances and just moving forward from this point on and so we're happy to include that in this package."
Gill, who officially retired in April, has been working on negotiations with LPFD and Local 1974 since July 2021 when the prior contract term ended that December.
But in March, the union declared an impasse rejecting LPFD's offer of a 12.5% pay increase for firefighter-paramedics and a 10.5% general wage increase for everyone else.
The union had also originally rejected a proposed drug-testing policy forcing a mediation process where Pleasanton City Manager Gerry Beaudin said a handful of topics including that policy were discussed and bargaining teams were able to find agreements on all of them.
During the stalled labor talks, it came to light publicly that the cities' chief negotiator alleged part of the impetus for the drug-testing policy was because an LPFD fire captain previously tested positive for cocaine while on duty.
The new drug- and alcohol-testing policy that is included in the tentative agreement states that all employees will be subject to on certain occasions such as reasonable suspicion, following an accident and returning to duty.
Those looking to join the department must also test and would be denied employment if they refuse. If a current employee refuses to test, they would be treated as testing positive and can face being fired or disciplined.
McThorn said he prefers the new policy in the updated contract because the old one proposed by the previous administration worked off a "gotcha" type of policy where firefighters would be tested for anything as minor as getting a small cut.
"It's a policy that I'm excited about," McThorn said regarding the updated policy. "I've been pushing for something like this for many years and with the new administration, they agree that substance abuse is a problem everywhere. Our firefighters dealing with a lot of things and this gives them the ability to get some help."
Other pay-related changes in the contract are the bilingual and education incentive pay. Those who are fluent in multiple languages will receive $45 per pay period and employees who complete courses to get degrees will get an incentive pay monthly ranging from $100 to $175 depending on which degrees they obtain.
"All of the different proposals in this I agree with and I highly value the work of our firefighters and their contribution to public safety," Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin said. "I'm glad we can continue this partnership and, you know, both sides learn from past dealings so I'm very glad and happy to support it."