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City, firefighters reach settlement in pay dispute

Albuquerque Fire Department firefighters reload 400 feet of five-inch hose onto Engine 19 after putting out a fire in an unoccupied mobile home in December. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The City of Albuquerque reached an $8 million settlement Thursday with the Albuquerque firefighters union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 244, ending pay raise disputes that date to 2011.

According to a news release, the City and IAFF Local 244 came to a no-fault/no-admission settlement resulting in the $8 million one-time payment.

“After eight long years of litigation we have finally reached a settlement for lost wages and benefits that were unilaterally stripped from us by the Berry Administration, significantly compromising recruitment and retention,” said Diego Arencón, General President of IAFF 244.

Arencón said the settlement will go “a long way” in restoring damages to the union, while acknowledging the leadership and patience of Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair throughout the settlement process .

“Our first responders are paramount to helping us create a safe city for our families,” Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said in the release. “We had a responsibility to both uphold a commitment that was made by the previous administration and reach an agreement that is fair for the taxpayers.”

Arencón said the final step is for IAFF members, who suffered the damages, to vote and accept the settlement, which will occur in the coming weeks.​

The issue dates to 2008, when the City of Albuquerque signed a multi-year collective bargaining agreement with the IAFF, which included anticipated yearly, compounded wage increases, according to the release.

For the first two years of the agreement, which was in effect from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011, City Council allotted the funds necessary to pay the wage increases each year, according to the release.

According to the press release, that changed in the last year of the agreement when City Council did not appropriate funds to provide for the six percent aspirational wage increase set for 2011.

Instead, the City Council executed city-wide wage and salary reductions due to a “severe economic downturn” and a “massive” general revenue budget shortfall, according to the release.

According to the release, due to the amount allocated by City Council for firefighter wages in 2011, IAFF members’ wages took a hit of 2.47 percent below 2010 levels.

In addition, the City increased the rate of IAFF members’ contribution for insurance benefits, from 17 percent to 20 percent, according to the release.

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