L.A. firefighter union agrees to delay raises to avoid cuts

The union that represents more than 3,600 Los Angeles city firefighters has agreed to push back a 4.5% raise scheduled for this summer, the latest concession offered up by a labor group as the city seeks to address a major budget crisis, according to a union bulletin sent Thursday.

United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 tentatively agreed to postpone its next pay increase by 18 months in exchange for a guarantee that city leaders would avoid the imposition of “brownouts,” the temporary closure of fire stations, and preserve department staffing, the bulletin said.

The deal, which still requires a ratification vote from the union’s members, likely won’t help Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders in closing a $675-million budget gap projected for the current fiscal year, since the next firefighter raise is set for July. But it could help them begin to address the next budget shortfall expected in 2021-22.

The firefighters union’s executive board called the deal fair for both sides, arguing it would help the city weather the financial crunch triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a drop in taxes and other revenues.

“Our firefighters are once again demonstrating that we are fair and reasonable when our city needs us during these extraordinary times,” the union’s board said in the bulletin.

City officials are hoping the agreement will help them spur the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents roughly 9,800 officers, to return to the bargaining table and offer their own givebacks. Police officers are scheduled to receive a 3.25% raise in the coming weeks, an amount projected to add $17.3 million to this year’s budget.

Garcetti thanked the firefighters union Thursday, saying their tentative agreement would help the city protect critical emergency services.

“I’m grateful for their collaboration, and I hope other bargaining units follow this example and come to the table during this difficult moment,” he said in a statement.

The announcement comes two days after a collection of civilian city unions announced they had struck their own agreement to delay a pair of raises for 18 months. That proposal, which also requires a ratification vote, would push two 2% pay increases into the 2022-23 budget year.

In exchange, the city promised not to pursue layoffs or furloughs for civilian city workers during the current budget year, which ends June 30.

Council President Nury Martinez, who sits on the city’s negotiating committee, thanked the various unions for offering new concessions. “They saved us throughout the last year and when called upon to help solve our city’s pandemic-driven fiscal crisis, they stepped up and saved us again,” she said.

The deal with the firefighters extends that union’s contract through 2024. Firefighters received their last raise of 4.75% in July, the first month of the current fiscal year.

The LAPD union’s contract also promised a 4.75% increase, but broken up into two parts — 1.5% in July, and another 3.25% this month.

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