Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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Vancouver city council ratifies contract with fire marshal’s office union

Agreement includes signing bonus, locks in raises through 2022

By , Columbian staff writer

The city of Vancouver ratified a new contract with the Vancouver Fire Department Guild during its regular city council meeting Monday night, cementing an agreement that grants raises and a signing bonus to the staff working in the fire marshal’s office.

The latest contract guarantees its members a 4 percent salary bump in 2020, and then 2 percent bumps in both 2021 and 2022. It additionally grants each member of the union a $750 signing bonus upon ratification of the document.

Over the next three years, the increases covered under the new agreement are estimated to cost the city an additional $247,148.

The Vancouver Fire Department Guild covers the fire marshal’s office staff, who petitioned the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission to form their own union this year. Their new guild is separate from the rank-and-file firefighters of the Vancouver Fire Department, who remain members of IAFF Local 452.

The marshal’s union encompasses resource service technicians, fire code officers, fire plans examiners and deputy fire marshals.

Up until the contract was ratified Monday, resource service technicians had earned an annual salary between $44,880 and $56,112. Now, by the end of 2022, that range will start at $48,564 and go up to $60,708. For fire code officers, who made between $55,044 and $70,368, their annual salary range will increase to $59,544 to $76,140 over the life of the contract.

Among deputy fire marshals — a job title broken into three subgroups determined by experience level — the salary range will increase from between $64,596 and $95,676 to between $69,888 and $103,524 by 2022.

The pattern of annual pay increases, with one 4 percent raise followed by two years of 2 percent raises, mirrors the terms of the group’s last contract. That 2017-2019 agreement was negotiated while the marshal’s office staff were still part of IAFF Local 452.

Bargaining in a budget shortfall

Monday’s agreement will increase the city’s personnel expenses, even as the COVID-19 pandemic requires belt-tightening measures elsewhere.

City councilors faced a similar decision last month when they approved a contract with the Vancouver Command Guild. That guild represents the upper echelons of the Vancouver Police Department, encompassing lieutenants and commanders.

At the time, City Manager Eric Holmes highlighted that the raises had already been negotiated and agreed upon before the coronavirus struck and blew a multimillion dollar hole in the city’s budget.

That agreement locked in 4 percent annual raises for every member of the guild for the next three years, and granted each a $1,000 signing bonus.

“As we navigate the financial implications and budget implications of the pandemic, we may need to go back to and engage with all of our collective bargaining units,” Holmes told the city council at its July 21 meeting. “The approach we’ve taken was to honor the good faith bargaining we engaged with at the bargaining table.”

The latest agreement with the Vancouver Fire Department Guild came with the same caveat: it’s “highly likely the City will need to revisit personnel costs in the next biennial budget,” the document presented to city council Monday evening stated.

The city council won’t meet again until after Labor Day, with the next meeting scheduled for Sept. 14.