MORAGA -- Automatic salary increases and largely unchanged health care benefits for firefighter-paramedics approved this week by the Moraga-Orinda Fire District board have erased the threat of a 9.5-percent across-the-board pay cut and health care benefits reductions.
MOFD directors on Wednesday approved a tentative agreement and terms for a successor memorandum of understanding between the district and members of United Professional Fire Fighters of Contra Costa County Local 1230 for the next four years. Board President John Wyro, Vice President Alex Evans and director Kathy Famulener voted for the contract; director Steve Anderson -- troubled by the district's commitment to automatic salary increases despite past economic ups and downs -- voted against. Director Fred Weil was absent and did not vote, although he indicated his support in a written statement.
The agreement comes a little more than a month after the district agreed to enter mediation and restart contract negotiations that stalled in January, when district officials declared an impasse following nearly four years of talks. The union ratified the tentative agreement April 4.
The approved terms include:
District contribution toward health care premiums for active and retired employees will stay the same as called for in the expired 2010 contract. However, those contributions won't surpass current amounts, meaning firefighters will continue to pay increases exceeding the district's maximum obligation.
And while new terms for future retiree health care will save money, the district still has outstanding retiree health care debt estimated in 2009 at about $24.1 million, the last year for which the district says numbers are available. It is deferring payments on that debt, including a $2.6 million contribution this year.
Fire Chief Stephen Healy said there was compromise by both the district and the union. Representatives of the union did not comment publicly this week, but indicated earlier that although pleased with salary adjustments after nearly six years of frozen wages, they were less enthusiastic about the health care terms.
"Over the last four years health care costs have gone up," Local 1230 President Vince Wells wrote in an email. "By the end of the contract, it will have been eight years of paying all the cost increases."
Former MOFD director Dick Olsen told the board he felt the union got the best of the deal.
"If sacrifice were needed, it should be shared equally between the union and the public. That obviously did not happen here," Olsen said. "This is one of the most one-sided documents -- contracts -- I have ever seen anywhere, anytime, in my lifetime."