Fire district approves labor contract

Published on Thu, May 19, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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After eight months of negotiation, the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) board of fire commissioners approved a three-year labor contract on April 21 with the International Association of Firefighters Local 106.

Local 106, which represents the NWFR firefighters, had approved the agreement at an April 16 union meeting.

NWFR chief Tom Fields said the portions of the contract that were most discussed centered on the firefighters’ health care costs and their work schedule. Fields said the negations themselves were civil and produced a contract that works best for the fire district and its employees.

Firefighters will now be asked to pay 15 percent of their annual insurance premiums, Fields explained. The contract also adjusts how sick leave is handled.

Both the union and NWFR agreed to no pay increase for 2011, but included a two percent increase for 2012 and 2013. The agreement also included a new firefighter work schedule that will reduce overtime costs by establishing 13 “debit” days for each firefighter per year, Fields explained. The fire district will pay firefighters for these days in advance and, in turn, will use them to schedule specific firefighters for work during specific overtime periods, such as weekends.

Union representative Ray Davidson said both the union and the district negotiated the contract with the current economic climate in mind. He explained the district’s firefighters know the district only has a limited amount of money and did not expect a pay raise in the contract if the district could not afford it.