PIEDMONT -- The City Council officially approved the new contract with Piedmont firefighters at its Monday night meeting, following ratification by the bargaining unit on Sept. 14.

The city spent months in negotiations with this last group to settle.

"There were profound disagreements with the group; we were at an impasse," City Administrator Geoff Grote said, adding that a state mediator had to be involved.

The passage Sept. 12 of state AB340, the California Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013, helped advance the city's negotiations, Grote said. The agreements in place in Piedmont already satisfy some provisions of the new state law.

The new agreement runs through June 30. It calls for a fourth year of no salary increase. Effective and retroactive to Aug. 1, employees pay $100 per month toward retiree medical. New hires after Sept. 1 will be subject to a reduced retirement benefit of 2 percent at 50, compared to 3 percent at 50 for current employees.

Because of a cost increase in the Public Employees Retirement System rate of about $60,000 from the prior fiscal year, Piedmont firefighters will pay $50,500 and Piedmont will pay $9,500, finance Director Mark Bichsel said.

The firefighters receive 12 paid holidays per year, earn 24 hours of sick leave per month, and can sell back up to 96 hours of vacation time, leaving two weeks "on the books."

The firefighters agreed to not strike. Their pay is $8,334 per month for lieutenants, $6,663 to $7,654 for engineers, and $6,345 to $7,287 for firefighters. The city continues to pay all health premiums unless the premium increases 12 percent or more. Then it will be shared 50-50 by city and employee.

The agreement includes a "side letter" whereby the city agrees at some point in the future to explore contracting out fire services to another public agency such as Alameda County Fire, for cost savings.

The council also approved a Memo of Understanding regarding mutual aid with the cities of Alameda, Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont and the county-designated provider Paramedics Plus.

Fire Chief Ed Tubbs explained that jurisdictions cooperate to provide support to each other where needed. The agreement allows the transport ambulance provider to bill for their service, usually about $250.

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