Camas police, fire departments negotiate new contracts

Members of both unions receive 1 percent pay bump

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The Camas City Council has approved one-year contracts with the city’s police and firefighters’ unions. Members of both groups will receive raises this year, after going without in 2011.

A contract for 2012 was approved with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 2444. Highlights include a one percent wage increase effective Jan. 1, 2012; 24 hours of “flex time” to be used in 2012 (with conditions that it cannot be cashed out, carried over or cause overtime); and a limit to 200 hours for the amount of vacation time that can be cashed out annually.

The new contract also included elimination, as of March 1, of positions classified as “firefighter engineer” and “paramedic engineer.”

The six employees this move impacted remain employed by the Camas Fire Department, but were demoted to ranks of “firefighter” and “paramedic,” according to Human Resources Director Jennifer Gorsuch.

Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said his decision to eliminate the specialized positions, which were established by the previous fire chief about five years ago, was based on the fact that he couldn’t justify the ranking’s added expense in a department of Camas’s size.

“I felt we couldn’t justify having this special rank of firefighters in such a small department, especially considering the way the economy and budget is,” he said, noting that it doesn’t even exist in the significantly larger Vancouver Fire Department. “It never worked very well and its existence was the subject of numerous complaints and concerns from other firefighters when I arrived.”

Swinhart, who began leading the Camas Fire Department in July 2011, said eliminating the rank will save the department approximately $20,000 per year.

As part of the Camas Police Officers’ Association’s one-year contract, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, its members receive a 1 percent pay raise.

The other Camas city employee unions, including the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11, Washington State Council of County and City Employees, and the Camas Public Employees Association, are currently covered under contracts that were negotiated and approved last year.

After receiving no pay increases in 2011, members of all three of these unions received a one percent raise this year,