Firefighters win annual raise of 5%
Binding arbitration for the four-year contract covers both state and county firefighters
State and county firefighters will receive across-the-board pay raises of 5 percent per year over four years as part of an arbitrated award issued last week.
With compounding, firefighters will make about 21.5 percent more by the end of contract, which goes into effect July 1. If they receive a step movement up one pay grade, they will make about 26.5 percent more.
A midcareer Firefighter II, for example, currently making $48,336 a year will earn $58,740 a year by the end of the four-year term.
A step increase taken during that period would boost the salary to $61,128 a year.
The contract covers 1,800 firefighters from the four counties and the state airports.
By law the state Legislature and all four County Councils need to approve the Feb. 8 award by the three-member arbitration panel.
The employers and the union entered into binding arbitration beginning Jan. 22 after they were unable to reach agreement on a collective-bargaining contract.
"I'm pleased with the outcome of the award," said Robert Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association Local 1463. "Our firefighters are getting reasonable pay raises, and based on the state of the economy for our state, I think these are reasonable increases also for the employers."
Lee said the award also sets small increases for meal allowances, uniform maintenance and differentials for dispatchers.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said through a spokesman that the city took the lead on the firefighter negotiations, so the mayor anticipated the amount to include for the raises in next year's budget that is scheduled to be released by March 1.
"It's included in our planning," he said. "We don't want to put in zero and leave it up to the Council to guess. We don't play games with the budget."
City spokesman Bill Brennan said the award will cost the city $49 million over the term of the contract.
"It is what it is, and if it's an arbitration award, we'll have to pay it," said City Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall.
"We need to approve it and fund it," said Council Budget Chairman Todd Apo. "The arbitration process is what they went through to come up with that number, and I think unless someone can show us some flaw in the system, it's almost a requirement that we fund it."
Marie Laderta, state human resources and collective-bargaining director, said the award is not expected to set a precedent for other state and county collective-bargaining contracts that are now either in arbitration or negotiation.
"All I can say is that each bargaining unit will be treated separately. We value all public employees and are trying to be fair to all parties," Laderta said.
But some City Council members are concerned about what this award will mean for the other collective-bargaining agreements still outstanding.
Councilman Charles Djou said the firefighters' award is not a huge concern because firefighters are a relatively small sector of the city's work force.
"I am very concerned that it will set a pace for all the other union raises and whatever minimum surplus that we have, I am concerned that it will be entirely consumed by union pay raises," Djou said.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.