MORAGA -- A temporary pay cut requested by Moraga-Orinda Fire Chief Stephen Healy isn't sitting well with firefighters and paramedics who say Healy's cut still isn't equal to salary reductions they fear could be imposed on firefighters by the district after a bargaining impasse.
Board President John Wyro and directors Kathleen Famulener and Fred Weil on Feb. 19 approved the 9.5 percent one-year pay cut voluntarily requested by Healy in response to the district's bleak finances. The district faces a $523,227 general fund deficit at the beginning of next fiscal year.
"I didn't want it to look like a gimmick, but at the end of the day, I think due to the financial condition of the district -- particularly the general fund budget in '14-15 -- that I should lead from the front," Healy told directors, the public and district firefighters and paramedics crowded inside the Moraga Library community room Wednesday night. His cut comes from an annual base salary of $220,000.
"I think the chief did what a leader should do," said director Steve Anderson, who wasn't at the meeting. "He's not asking the rank and file to do something that he himself would not do."
Union members disagree. Mark DeWeese, a district firefighter and district representative of United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County Local 1230, said Healy's 9.5 percent cut is not on par with the 9.5 percent reduction the union fears the board will impose on firefighters and paramedics.
DeWeese says the proposed 9.5 pay cut to the rank and file will leave them with 2 percent less than what they were making in 2006. For the chief's cut to be comparable, DeWeese claims, Healy would have to make 2 percent less than the fire chief's 2006 salary and take a deeper cut.
"The board seems to be marketing this ... as the same proposed pay cut that they're threatening to impose on the firefighters," DeWeese said. "So while I appreciate the chief's willingness to cut his pay back down 9.5 percent to $199,000, he's about $33,000 short of putting it on par with what he and the board are trying to force the rest of us to take."
District leaders unanimously approved Healy's five-year contract Nov. 20. The approval raised the district's former division chief of operations' base salary of $153,400 to $220,000; Healy's predecessor, Randy Bradley, earned a base salary of $189,600 before leaving in July.
According to Local 1230 leadership, the district has proposed a 9.5 percent across-the-board pay cut to union member salaries for one year beginning July 1. The union says the district pitched that "last, best and final proposal" after suggesting firefighters and paramedics take a 7.5 percent across-the-board pay reduction starting July 1 for two years, with no salary range changes in fiscal year 2015-16. Union members say the district's wasteful spending has put a financial burden on safety personnel.
District officials have also proposed health care changes and a new job classification for single-role paramedics who would replace a dozen firefighter-paramedic positions vacated through attrition, retirement or other departures, according to the union.
The district declared a negotiation impasse Jan. 28 after nearly four years of talks; health care benefits and cost-of-living salary increases have remained frozen since 2010.
Wyro, the board president, told union members Wednesday that directors -- through their representatives -- are available to talk at any time, and what's "at issue" is "being able to sustain this district and these people."
Local 1230 President Vince Wells said the district and union have not talked since the impasse was declared, and believes the board is through talking. He added that the union plans to ask for mediation before a fact-finding process.