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Fire department, clerks come to terms

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department and its clerical employees have agreed to a labor contract, the first since department employees voted to unionize in 2000.

The contract provides for immediate raises of roughly 13 percent. One position will see annual raises of 4.5 percent each of the next two years, while future increases for the other position are tied to the cost of living.

“This was our first contract negotiation, and there was a big learning curve for everyone,” said fire department Executive Director Ken Guy.

The new contract covers the department’s three clerical employees, two of whom share a job. The uniformed fire fighters and the department reached an agreement in March.

Negotiations with clerical staff stalled over the question of what salaries to use as benchmarks against which to compare pay on Bainbridge, Guy said.

That was resolved by an independent salary survey undertaken in March, Guy said. After the the results were reported and discussed, negotiations proceeded rapidly to their conclusion.

The new contract immediately boosts the monthly salary for the department’s staff assistant from $3,013 to $3,417. Monthly pay for the receptionist goes from $1,907 to $2,149.

The initial boosts were unusually large, Guy said, because the employees have not received any cost-of-living increases during the past 17 months, while contract negotiations have been ongoing.

“Part of the increase represents a retroactive cost-of-living increase,” Guy said. “The rest of the adjustment is based on the salary survey.”

The contract was approved by fire board commissioners Doug Johnson and Glen Tyrrell. Commissioner Jim Johnson took no part in the discussion and did not vote because his wife Diane is one of the employees affected by the contract.

The contract is effective as of May 23, and runs through Dec. 31, 2004. The expiration date is the same as the contract for the uniformed firefighters.

The firefighters won an immediate raise of 11.5 percent, with future increases pegged to the cost of living. The most contentious issue in that contract was whether employees would pay a portion of their health-insurance premiums.

Contract negotiations began in December 2000, after the fire department’s full-time employees voted to unionize. Both sides said that negotiations took as long as they did because it was the first-ever contract, and expect future negotiations to go much more rapidly.

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