Friday, March 25, 2005

Panel gives firefighters
raises of at least 8.24%

Both the Legislature
and County Councils
must OK the award

State and county firefighters will get at least an 8.24 percent pay raise in the next two years under an arbitration award issued this month.

The award, issued March 15 from a three-member arbitration panel, gives the firefighters 2 percent pay increases every six months during a two-year contract starting July 1. The arbitration panel also included pay increases based on longevity for each rank, and $350-per-month incentive pay for firefighters assigned to desk jobs.

Firefighter II salary ranges from $39,348 to $51,324 a year.

"I think it was very fair, a win-win for both sides," said Bobby Lee, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association president.

Because of firefighters' work schedule, the incentive pay was granted to persuade firefighters to work 40 hours a week at desk jobs, Lee said. Firefighters normally work 24 hours straight, followed by 24 hours off. After the third 24-hour shift, firefighters get 72 hours off.

The employers and the union submitted the contract negotiations to binding arbitration last month after they were unable to agree to the terms of a new contract.

Under state collective-bargaining law, the state Legislature and all four County Councils need to approve the arbitration award to ratify the contract. If the state Legislature or any one of the County Councils rejects any cost item, the entire award is void.

"Public safety is a top priority, and we've got to attract the best people," said City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann had anticipated an arbitration award and made an accommodation for a pay raise in the $1.35 billion operating budget he submitted to the City Council earlier this month, said city spokesman Bill Brennan.

The pay raises affect 973 Honolulu Fire Department employees and will cost the city $3 million in the first year of the agreement and $7 million in the second year.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said pay raises for Hawaii County's 302 firefighters will cost $1.2 million in the first year and $2.9 million in the second year. Kim said he favors binding arbitration, and included money in his budget for employee pay raises.

The alternative to binding arbitration would be to allow government employees to strike, and Kim said he believes there should be no interruption in the services they provide.

Maui County has 277 firefighters. The pay raises will cost Maui $832,000 in the first year and $2.2 million in the second year.

There are 111 Kauai County firefighters. No cost figures were available.

The state employs about 150 firefighters at state airports, said state chief negotiator Ken Taira. Gov. Linda Lingle's administration is not releasing the state's cost for the pay raises until it submits the figures to the Legislature, Taira said.

In an arbitration award in 2003, Hawaii firefighters received 1.5 percent pay raises each year for the two years of the current contract and new pay schedules for each rank.

Previously, a newly promoted captain earned the same salary as a captain with 20 years' experience. The pay schedule, which continues under the current award, gives employees with more years of experience higher salaries.

Hawaii Fire Fighters Association

E-mail to City Desk


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