WatchSonoma Watch

Firefighters contract: The fine print

Say this for the Santa Rosa firefighters union, they drive a hard bargain.

The contract extension announced this week does include a payment toward retirement benefits from the firefighters. But the payment will go toward the city’s share. What does that mean? It means the city still pays the full employee share, and that money counts as pensionable salary when retirement benefits are calculated.

Another provision looks ahead to the possibility, likelihood may be more accurate, that a change in state law will prohibit public agencies (such as Santa Rosa) from paying the employee share of pension contributions (for firefighters and rank-and-file police, but not other employees). If the practice is outlawed, the firefighters’ contract calls for the city to pay half. Huh? A raise equal to half of the employee contribution would be triggered by a law requiring the firefighters to pay their own share.

Heads I win, tails you lose.

– Jim Sweeney

18 Responses to “Firefighters contract: The fine print”

  1. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Ken C – City negotiators do not get the same pension (or whatever) as those they are negotiating with. Each unit negotiates separately with the City, and not all of them end up with the same deal, so how could the City negotiators get the same!? The City negotiators are also unrepresented by any union. It has been my experience that the City negotiates very hard for the best deal for the City.

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  2. faroq says:

    What short memories you haters have. Have you already forgotten about the two San Francisco firefighters, Anthony Valero and Vincent Perez, that BURNED TO DEATH doing the very same job you’re all complaining about? How much is it worth for someone to be burned to death while trying to save someone’s home? Merely 1/2 of what they were paid? Perhaps only 1/4? How much should the responder that arrives and provides aid to your heart-attack stricken spouse/parent be paid? How much should the responder that arrives to extricate your child from their wrecked truck/car after a night of underage drinking and driving and save them from bleediing to death? How much should a firefighter/emergency responder be paid to work through Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, their kids’ birthdays so someone is there to respond?
    How much is your home worth? How much is the life of your child, spouse, parent worth?

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  3. Citizen says:

    @ Ken C – It’s ok that you misunderstood the language. It’s a very common mistake by enraged readers that are LOOKING for ways to blame public workers for their own bad situation.

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  4. Ken C says:

    The vague language on the City’s website was clarified for me. It turns out that unlike the County, the City does not pay into social security and the employees do not receive social security.

    However, I will stand by my prevous suggestion that City employees should not be negotiating with the unions and the city should hire outside representatives. When pensions were raised, the negotiators also had their pensions raised. It is a complete conflict of interst.

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  5. Ken C says:

    Several issues:

    First, the reason that benefits are so high is because city employees negotiate with the unions. The city should hire outside negotiators because city workers cannot be objective.

    Second, City of Santa Rosa workers already get social security benefits and according to the city’s website, they do not contribute to social security which between employer and employee is about 14% of payroll.

    Third, social security is designed to provide 40% of a person’s salary in retirement. So when employees were getting 2% per year between their pension and social security they were getting 100% (60% + 40%) of their pay befor spiking. Now with the 3% formula they are getting 130% of pay (90 + 40).

    We should praise Susan Gorin an Gary Wysocky for standing up to the unions and start a recall for the council members that support this very bad deal.

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  6. Pearl Alqileres says:

    Why can’t people understand the conflict of interest that exists when the person representing US is dependant on the person representing THEM for his very job!
    It’s like getting mugged by a mugger who doesn’t want YOUR money… he just wants you to give him OUR money & you get to keep a cut!
    What do you expect our Elected Representatives to do? Do you really believe they’re “Saints”?
    BAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS COMPLETELY and this conflict of interest goes away along with a BIG chunk of the hole in our budget!

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  7. Jack Atkin says:

    Government of, by and for the people employees

    What is the right level of compensation for public employees? The right level is what it takes to attract and retain qualified employees. Paying more than that amount is essentially a gift to employees with taxpayer money.

    From all reports there are hundreds of applicants for every opening at the fire department. That alone and strongly suggests that the compensation far exceeds the level necessary. Our public officials are frittering away taxpayers’ resources to feather the nests of a small group of employees. The proposed contract revisions do little to achieve the needed reforms.

    Have we sunk from having a government of, by and for the people to one that is of, by and for the employees?

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  8. Jim M says:

    The council has not agreed to this yet, it’s agenda item 11.4 for the next council meeting.

    I had thought this was a deal the council needed to accept, but with this additional information it looks like it could cost the city an additional 4.5%, might be worth voting it down and seeing if another deal could be struck.

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  9. bear says:

    Firefighters, you’ve gone too far. How are you so much better than other public employees?

    Question is, why did the City agree to this?

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  10. STEVE HUMPHREY says:

    At one time we all looked up to our firefighters. Now when I see them I get a real sick feeling knowing that at all costs they are going to get theirs at the taxpayer expense. These negotiations haven’t just created an unsustainable result, but have degraded the firefighters to the same ilk as most of our politicians and wall street scammers.

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  11. Fiscal Conservative says:

    Thanks for sharing this information.

    It’s becoming clear, not just here, but around the country, that legislation to end the defined benifits pension system will be needed.

    For those who are not famillar with government ‘defined benifits’, it is a promise to recive a promised sum of money upon retirement. The problem is, our taxes were given to the unions, the investments were lost, and now the taxpayer is re-paying the unions to keep the promise of the pension plan.

    If the unions were businesses, they would have been forced into bankruptcy.

    How does this keep going? Unions have large contributions taken from members (without any say) for PAC’s(political action contributions).

    Look at the polititians at every government level, that supports this house of cards.
    Where does their political funding come from?
    Thus we have the fox guarding the henhouse.

    It’s only a matter of time and how deep the debt gets before it is outlawed.

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  12. Stop the Spending NOW says:

    Firefighters working 9 or 10 days a month spent way too much of their time breaking their arms slapping themselves on the back for a job well done.

    Yea, they do serve a purpose when a structure fire occurs, but how many structure fires do we have?

    They have too much time on their hands to go to coffee, talk, eat and watch television. For all of this they are paid very high salaries, benefits and pensions.

    For far too long they have been riding the gravy train with their shift schedules, overtime pay and acting pay. All of this has made their function in this economy unaffordable.

    The city council and city negotiators need to stop this give away program and begin to turn the good ship lollypop around.

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  13. Ken S says:

    Just want to point out that the new majority business-friendly city council is the one who brought you this. Remember all the talk about back-room deals? Well…were the doubters that far off?

    Way to go!!!!!!!

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  14. John T says:

    Mr. Sweeney sir,
    They may drive a hard bargain, but what about the lame administration who accepted this “deal” and is now willing to bring it to the City Council for consideration? Have they lost all common sense?

    Soon they’ll want breakfast served in bed in the firehouse. But hey! Why not? The cops get paid OT for getting dressed.

    They win. We lose. We pay. They laugh all the way to the bank.

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  15. Steveguy says:

    They really don’t do much and are overblown ‘heroes’. There are citizen ‘heroes’ too.

    We have been scammed, and if you reduce the salaries by 1/2, you will still have a line out the door !

    Not too denigrate their job, but a tree worker or surfing instructor has a far more dangerous job. Bodega Bay fishermen come to mind.

    Go away, and re-apply for a big reduction in pay. You are overpaid, way overpaid.

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  16. SR Watcher says:

    Just found the Charter provision that relates to why the only way we can change fire and police from asking for more and more…

    Sec. 49. Pensions. If and when any such coverage is possible under the laws of the State of California and the laws of the United States, the Council may provide for inclusion of City employees, officials or members of the police or fire department in the benefits of the Federal Social Security Act as now or hereafter amended or superseded, and the Council may for and on behalf of the City, enter into such contracts or agreements with the State of California or the federal government of the United States or any agency, department or officer of the state or federal government, make such payments, incur such obligations and take such other action as necessary to accomplish coverage of City employees, officials or members of the police or fire department under the Federal Social Security Act. The Council may enter into a contract with the Board of Administration of the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement System providing for retirement and death and disability benefits for persons in the employ of the City to the full extent authorized by the state Employees’ Retirement Act or by said Act as now or hereafter amended or superseded, and a tax sufficient for such participation may be levied by the Council in addition to taxes authorized elsewhere in this charter and irrespective of any other provisions of this charter.
    No pensions of any kind or character other than as provided in this section provided shall be awarded or paid to any active or retired City official or employee unless provided for by an initiative ordinance adopted by the electors of the City or required by state or federal law applicable to charter cities.

    UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM…Basically the have negotiated very well….well so what! That was then and this is our situation now…don’t extend it even more..just like the police…no wonder they just sit in their recliners and wait for the check to be paid….

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  17. Chris says:

    Union math reminds me of Enron math.

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  18. SR Watcher says:

    They play the “hero” role 24/7 and you will see that they will again be very very quiet until the issue passes….. They have still not given up anything and won’t either because they are already working 24/7 on the next way to get raises and more benefits. They cheat the public who are nieve to their tactics. We don’t have a shortage of firefighters and these aren’t young firefighters running into the fire…only towards the potential for more money. The upper level staff pick and choose who will be ALLOWED into the club. If they did a recruitment there would be thousands of applicants…me too! They can go to another fire (even out of state) and make thousands in overtime. The upper management don’t actually go into the fire…they are getting paid 24/7 to administrate….only the lowest paid actually go into a fire. In order to advance you need to sell your soul…and yourself…by giving the guys (yeah, sometimes women) new toys and more benefits…or have them pass another test..

    The truth is that over 90 percent of the calls for service are emergency medical…..yet, they don’t transport because they have contracts for that too…it is such a racket….I bet the Interim Fire Chief will be the new Fire Chief for this big time negotiation deal…Honor your clients Fire and stop the bleeding…we are your brothers too!

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