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IB Firefighters Lose Big Benefits Under New Pension Agreement

Effective immediately, the city's Firefighters/Paramedics take on more costs to save Imperial Beach tens of thousands of dollars over the next five years as the city will no longer pay toward employee's retirement pensions.

After months of negotiation, the Imperial Beach Firefighters' Association Local 4692 and City of Imperial Beach have entered into an agreement for the next two fiscal years.

City Council approved the agreement at their Sept. 7 meeting.

The new agreement is a big change in Firefighters/Paramedics retirement benefits as employees will now pay the entire portion of their California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) contribution.

Until the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were agreed upon, .

The new MOU for fiscal years 2011-2013 will save the city $52,000 in benefit charges over the next two years and could save $28,000 or more each year for the next five years.

Efective immediately, terms of this MOU are retroactive to July 1, 2011.

Fire Captain and Public Safety Department director Tom Clark said there are no cost of living adjustments during the term of the agreement for the city's 11 full-time Firefighters/Paramedics.

The MOU mandates an Insurance Committee be established to review alternative insurance options. Clark said a review of health insurance options is necessary as continuous changes are happening on the national level.

"We don't know what will happen with Obamacare," Clark said. "Changes there can impact our employees drastically, especially part-time employees."

Also part of the agreement, as of January 1, 2012, smoking and tobacco of any kind is prohibited while on-duty. No employees can have visible tattoos while on-duty with the exception of workouts and physical fitness inside the fire station. Visible piercings are limited to one set of stud earrings per earlobe.

Mayor Jim Janney said it is important to acknowledge the members of the city's Fire Department and its commitment to creating a MOU that offsets the City's budget in tough economic times. He said firefighters have joined other .

"They really bent over backwards to accommodate the City's struggling budget, with what we have and what we can do to continue operating," he said.

Employees hired before July 1 will receive a stiped worth four percent of their pay in July in 2011 and 2012 to help them transition into increased health insurance costs for employees.

New hires after July 1 will be paid two percent at age 50 using the average of employee's highest three-year salary and pay the entire employee contribution.

Employees may not transfer unused sick leave to CalPERS service credit. Part-time employees participate in the Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS), and will no longer pay into Social Security.

Maximum payments toward health insurance coverage or the purchase of other qualified benefits by the City will increase to $825, an increase of $50 July 1 and $855, an increase of $30 in July 2012.

Employees choosing alternative health care may cash out as taxable cash benefit a maximum of $775 per month for 2011.

Effective January 1, 2012 the payout will be reduced to $400 per month.

New hires under an alternative medical plan may cash out a maximum of $150 per month. Eligibility to opt out of the City's health plan requires proof of alternative medical and dental insurance.

Employees hired prior to July 1 may accrue up to 1400 hours of sick leave and will receive cash payment on June 30 each year for accrued hours over the maximum. New hires may accrue up to 1120 hours, with a payout of excess each June 30.

Firefighter/Paramedics will receive a specialty pay to maintain paramedic license of 11.3 percent of base pay, captains 5 percent and engineers 7.5 percent.

Retaining a paramedic license is a condition of employment with the city for all Firefighters/Paramedics.

Though not a condition of employment for captains and engineers, Clark said this specialty pay helps pay for the high cost of maintaining a paremedic license.

"This specialty pay is for employees that use their paramedic license every day on duty," Clark said. "They are compensated monthly for license upkeep and current continuing education."

An addition to the MOU provides staffing for three full-time fire suppression personnel for all shifts and provides classification for the position of Firefighter/Paramedic Recruit, working at a reduced salary until graduation and a probation period of one year.

Changes made include hours of work, educational benefits, physical examinations, out of classification pay, and holiday and vacation benefits.

This is agenda item 2.3 on the Sept. 7 City Council agenda.

Libi Uremovic September 14, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Also part of the agreement, .., smoking and tobacco prohibited ..., No employees can have visible tattoos .. Visible piercings are limited to one set of stud earrings per earlobe.... What does that have to do with the budget?
janicebaeza September 14, 2011 at 07:40 AM
In capitalism, when you can't find a customer, you lower your price. Even the federal government understands that. The premiums have now dropped by 20% to 40%, depending on your age, circumstance and state. If you considered this pre-existing coverage plan before and found it too costly, give it a look now. best would be to check "Penny Health" for your health insurance
Kay Kardian September 14, 2011 at 02:58 PM
It seems we all hear about cuts in the budget that affects the employees who protect our citizens. I don't understand why cuts are always aimed at firefighters, police, teachers and public service. I never hear about cuts regarding the City Officials and not just IB the whole picture of our government. Senators, Congressmen, people who run our cities they have great health insurance plans, travel expenses, paid collages tution for their families I could go on and on. Why don't their pay get cut and their expense accounts? They get alot of perks. I'm not sure but this is capitalism. Hopefully on down the road the people will demand that their budgets be cut also, its sad. On another note I agree with libi, "What does errings, tatoos have to do with the budget"? Please explain that?
SmokeNgun September 15, 2011 at 03:27 AM
Why do we pay firemen to sleep at the fire department? CHP, Police, Sheriffs, SWAT team, Air Traffic Controllers, Hospital Staff, or any other 24/7 government agency employee don't get paid to sleep at work.
south coast surfer September 15, 2011 at 06:19 AM
Smokengun, last time I checked, emergencies don't just happen Monday through Friday 9 to 5. By having firefighters work 24 hour shifts, it keeps the number of employees to a minimum and creates significant personnel related savings to the city. I also agree with libi and Kay Kardian that earrings, tattoos and tobacco have nothing to do with the budget, which should be the primary concern.
SmokeNgun September 16, 2011 at 02:04 AM
CHP, Police, Sheriffs, SWAT team, Air Traffic Controllers, Hospital Staff all respond to emergency 24/7 and none of are paid to sleep at work like firemen. I disagree that Taxpayers are saving money by paying firemen sleep at work. By not paying firemen to sleep at work and going to a shift system would reduce the overtime needs. We would actually be SAVING Taxpayer’s money without a reduction in the quality of services. Firemen work 15 days a month and get paid for 30 days. Per the Union Tribune, firemen are the largest abusers of overtime pay.
south coast surfer September 16, 2011 at 04:43 AM
The only time firefighters receive overtime pay is when they work a day that they are not scheduled to normally work. Instead of a 40 hour work week as most people work, they work a 56 hour work week. All of which is paid at straight time. That equates to an additional 64 hours per month, which is in excess of an extra work week. Doesn't really sound like overtime abuse to me. In fact, all fire departments in the county already operate on a 3 shift system.
SmokeNgun September 16, 2011 at 05:29 AM
South Coast Surfer are you a IB Fireman? FYI - I am not.
south coast surfer September 16, 2011 at 01:52 PM
I have friends who are firefighters and got my info from them.
SmokeNgun September 17, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Fireman overtime is a major part of the problem. SD spends the most money per fireman in the nation. IB firemen rank #3 on the “most overtop public employee benefit” list. The OT will be significantly reduced by not paying firemen to sleep at the fire station. Significantly reducing OT would lead to hiring more firemen. So why do we pay firemen to sleep at the fire station? I believe it is caused by the leak leadership of the city council; they pat themselves on the back for banning tattoos & ear rings. How about banning moustaches? http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/aug/30/san-diego-no-1-in-spending-per-firefighter/ http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/jun/11/escondido-coronado-have-top-pension-packages/
south coast surfer September 18, 2011 at 07:56 PM
San Diego is way different than IB. You cited the article on the OT costs in the City of San Diego. In that article, it states that several studies were done, including one by Mayor Sanders and the conclusion was that it was cheaper to pay the current employees overtime, than to fill all the vacancies. The overtime is incurred when there is not an employee to cover a shift as a result of vacation, sick call or understaffing. I'm sure the city could hire to fill the several hundred positions they are short, but the article states the associated costs woud be significantly more. It seems that by paying the overtime, the city is making the more fiscally sound move. In regards to the pension that IB firefighters receive, the article you cite shows that the reason for the "most overtop" ranking was because the city paid the firefighters' portion of their pension. As clearly stated in the above article, that no longer is going to happen. In fact, the city even went one step further and lowered the benefits for all new hires.
Firefighter Dave January 25, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Glad that SD got rid of Clark. Imperial Beach is such a cool beachy community. His autocratic ways will poison IB. No tobacco, tattoos and earrings? You watch, mustaches will be next. The guys just took a pay cut. Nothing like taking all their personal expression away to help boost morale in the workplace.
BKrepps April 27, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I know this is a late post; however, I wish 911 calls only happened between 8 am and 5 pm, that way I could go home and see my family. It's sad that people take what they read in the media as gospel; ignorance truly is bliss. Most people aren't exposed to diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis, Mersa ,TB not to mention many others and yet get dinged by the media because they work an extra day because someone called in sick or went on vacation. It would be nice if we could just put out a sign out front of the station reading "Gone Fishing" but that is not the reality.
BKrepps April 27, 2012 at 04:09 AM
The reality is that we are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and never put out the closed sign. There have been times when I had been running calls all night and all day and wanted to go home when my shift was over but was forced to stay because someone was hurt or ill. I swore an oath like all my brother and sister firefighters did before me and I honor it every day I go to work and put on my badge. As for the notion that the cities should hire more firefighters so that we don't get paid for sleeping I have this: don't you think it would cost more to pay the benefits and retirement than it would to just pay the people already there their hourly salary? Just saying that I think some pretty smart people might have already crunched the numbers on that one. Furthermore; I am in agreement that how do tattoos and piercings affect a budget deficit? Sounds to me like their director saw an opportunity to kick his employees while they were down; good for you Mr. Clark!
Libi Uremovic August 23, 2012 at 07:12 PM
the city has the fire dept's budget padded $1/2 million http://imperialbeach.patch.com/blog_posts/firefighters-budget-overstated-by-500k

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