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ABQ firefighters reach ‘first of its kind’ agreement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry’s administration and the union that represents Albuquerque firefighters reached agreement on a new contract Monday that boosts pay about 2.5 percent across the board.

Drivers and lieutenants would get 4.5 percent.

It’s the first pay raise Albuquerque firefighters will receive since the city cut their pay — and other employees’ — about three and half years ago to keep the budget balanced amid the Great Recession. There’s still pending litigation centered on the 2010 pay cut.

But Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and fire union president Diego Arencon all spoke positively Monday morning about the new agreement. They seemed optimistic about the possibility of a more harmonious relationship.

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“This is a good foundation for us,” the mayor said.

Arencon said about 78 percent of the firefighters eligible to vote on the contract participated, and it was passed with 94 percent approval.

“This is a pivotal agreement for Albuquerque’s firefighters,” he said. “It’s a great step forward.”

The agreement resolves one particularly tough source of tension between the administration and union: the practice of “union time,” in which union representatives draw their regular city pay while handling labor matters.

The new agreement calls for firefighters to donate some of their annual leave to a pool, which can then be tapped by union leaders.

City Council President Ken Sanchez expressed optimism about the city’s relationship with firefighters. He co-sponsored legislation that provide enough money for the pay raises.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

Berry said the contract is the “first of its kind” between his administration and the fire union.

I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.

 

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