SHERIDAN — A streamlined negotiations process with Sheridan City Council still brought satisfaction to the Firefighters Local Union 276, according to Union President Jerry Johnston.
“I think it went very well,” Johnston told city council Monday. “I’d like to thank you all for your generosity and your time… It was a good day and everyone got along well. We’re very happy with the format we came up with, and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year.”
On May 3, Sheridan City Council unanimously approved a new contract with the union. The contract, which will go into effect July 1, was the end result of the city’s annual collective bargaining session in which the union and the city discussed terms related to wages, rate of pay, working conditions and other subjects of interest to the firefighters.
Changes outlined in this year’s contract include two pay steps for all firefighters who received a “meets expectations” score or higher on their 2020 performance appraisal. For example, a fire captain currently making $64,375 a year who passed his appraisal would now make $65,994 under the new contract. A Division Chief of Operations currently making $78,435 annually would now make $80,408.
In addition to the across-the-board step increases, the contract also gives an additional three-step increase to four employees to address pay compression issues. Pay compression occurs when there's little difference in pay between employees regardless of differences in their knowledge, skills, experience and abilities.
The contract also gives firefighters special duty pay for the first time. Employees may receive up to $600 a month — in addition to regular wages — for performing special duties that require a certification including being a hazardous materials technician, an intermediate EMT and a paramedic.
The new contract also allows firefighters to live within 20 miles of the firehouse, rather than the previously stipulated 15.
For the first time this year, collective bargaining took place primarily in one day-long executive session of city council April 23. In the past, there have been multiple bargaining sessions held over a matter of weeks before city council meetings.
In addition, both sides had a chance to review proposals two weeks prior to the beginning of bargaining for the first time this year, Johnston said.
The collective bargaining process has always been long and arduous but was made more complicated last year when three meetings worth of discussions had to be null and voided when council action was taken illegally in executive session. This year, the negotiations followed all regulations and state statutes, Johnston said.
During the city council meeting, Mayor Rich Bridger expressed satisfaction with the new approach to collective bargaining, and the agreement reached with the union, which will be in effect through June 30, 2022.
“We did have a very productive meeting, and we got a lot done in a short amount of time,” Bridger said. “It didn’t drag on… thank you again for showing up and getting it done.”