Eight staff members of rural Fire District No. 5 have a new contract after more than 18 months of negotiations, including some mediation sessions.
The four-year contract, which was approved by the the district’s board of commissioners on April 28, is retroactive to Jan. 1 of 2013, as the past contract — under which employees worked during the lengthy negotiation process — expired on Dec. 31, 2012. The new contract expires Dec. 31, 2016.
“We actually went into mediation and had a couple of mediation hearings,” said District 5 Chief Dan Prater. “Out of that, we ended up coming back to the table and making a deal.”
The new pact calls for staff to get annual raises based on the state consumer price index in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton area. Raises are 100 percent of that index, but not less than 2 percent and not more than 4 percent.
Based on that, District 5 staff received a retroactive raise of 2.7 percent for 2013 and a 2 percent raise for 2014, according to Prater.
Prater said staff benefits stayed “status quo,” though he did note that the staff had recently changed its health plan carrier to Regence, saving the district about $12,000 annually in premiums.
The district did receive a bit of flexibility in dealing with overtime costs, Prater said.
“We got the ability to use per diem and temporary employees to cover some overtime shifts,” the chief said. “That’s kind of a big deal to help keep overtime costs down.”
Mike Litzinger, a captain with Fire District 5 and the union representative, said the deal worked out for both sides.
“Obviously, we’re O.K. with it because we approved it,” Litzinger said. “There’s always some give and take on both parts. There was not any major ground gained by either side. We just sort of maintained the status quo. That’s how we look at it.”
The full cost of the contract ws not available as of press time.