A one-year contract between the city of Washougal and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2444 will save the city thousands of dollars in the coming year.
During its Dec. 19 meeting the City Council approved the new labor agreement, which takes effect Jan. 1 and does not include any cost of living adjustment for 2012.
Bringing the most significant amount of savings to the city is the stipulation that the number of hours worked per “Kelly Day” schedule cycle would be reduced from 49 to 48, which would bring Washougal in line with Camas firefighters’ contracts. Camas and Washougal paid firefighters have been part of the same union since 2009.
This move alone is expected to save the city at least $30,000, according to City Administrator David Scott.
A “Kelly Day” is a day off given to firefighters to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and bring the work week down to the negotiated number of hours. Without the Kelly Days, overtime would have to be paid to firefighters because of their unusually long shifts.
Councilman Paul Greenlee described the Kelly Day cycle as “complicated,” but said he is pleased with the end result of the contract negotiations.
“By decreasing the number of hours worked per week, we end up saving a significant amount of money — [something that is] not at all obvious,” Greenlee said. “By cutting back to [a number] that is divisible, we end up saving a significant amount of labor costs.”
The new contract also guarantees that the city will realize cost savings as employees will now pay 10 percent of dependents’ health insurance premium costs — an estimated savings of $1,600 in 2012. Local 2444 members’ health insurance premiums are still covered fully by the city.
The contract also contains some good news for firefighters through the stipulation that sick leave accrual will be bumped from 10 hours per month to 16 hours per month.
According to Scott, the “key component” in the new contract is the trial consolidation that is currently underway between the Camas and Washougal fire departments. Scott said an appendix that is part of the approved contract stipulates that all of the terms are contingent upon the city continuing its good faith effort toward the pursuit of the consolidation.
In June, the Camas and Washougal City Councils approved an inter-local agreement to set in motion a six-month functional consolidation effort between the two cities’ fire departments.
A complete merger could be in the future for the two neighboring departments.
Fire chiefs from both entities have reported that overtime savings have already been realized through the agreement, which gives the Camas and Washougal fire departments flexibility to move staff from station to station to fill gaps and maintain minimum staffing.
With the IAFF Local 2444 contract finalized, Scott said only one contract still needs to be approved. City leaders are currently working with American Federation of State and Municipal Employees Union Local 307-W union representatives on a new labor agreement to replace the one that expires at the end of 2011.
In other Washougal City Council news, the workshop originally set for today was cancelled. The next meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 6 p.m., at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.