The Upland Professional Fire Fighters Association and the city have reached agreement on a new contract.

By Sandra Emerson, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Created: 07/30/2012 11:45:54 AM PDT

UPLAND — After a year of negotiations, firefighters and city officials have reached a contract agreement.

The Upland Professional Fire Fighters Association’s new two-year contract, which is already set to expire in June 2013, does not include increases in salaries and benefits, but does give firefighters options for using their vacation time.

“I want to thank both groups for coming together and realizing we’re under extreme economic times,” Councilman Brendan Brandt said.

The agreement provides for vacation buy back, allowing association members to cash out up to 48 hours of their vacation leave.

Firefighters can also buy back or donate 24 hours of their vacation time for emergencies or donate the hours to another association member experiencing a financial emergency, as long as they get approval from the association.

A release time bank will cover association members conducting approved union-related business. Each member will contribute .23 hours of vacation per pay period to the bank. The members currently use their own vacation time when conducting association business.

The union has been working without a contract since July 2011.

Similar to the last contract, firefighters will continue at the 3 percent at age 55 retirement formula.

They will continue to pay 5.8 percent of their salary toward the employer contribution rate for their pensions and the city will continue to pay the employee contribution of 9 percent.

Employees receive $905.13 per month for the purchase of health insurance benefits through the city’s cafeteria plan, which includes medical, dental and vision.

Council members in May asked all seven of the city’s employee groups to agree to a salary freeze and either a 10 percent salary cut or to contribute their portion of their pensions in order to avoid layoffs in the Police Department and cuts to services.

The firefighters’ group and the Upland Police Officers Association offered concessions that were rejected by the council because they also sought a two-year extension to their contracts.

The council wanted to have the option of looking into other methods of providing public-safety services.

“This came as a surprise to us due to the fact that there was no prior warning, signs or talks of any economic issues or concessions during previous negotiation meetings leading up to this request, according to a statement from the association.

“However, as an association, the members of the UPFF were willing to pay our full 9 percent share of PERS retirement with a request for a two-year contract with the city.

“We as an employee group for the city already pay the highest portion of our pension compared to the other groups in the city.

“Since 2005, UPFF has paid 5.8 percent of PERS, so an additional 3.2 percent from our membership was an option we were willing to take into consideration and agree upon. As an association, we viewed this request as an opportunity to once again help this city with its financial and political problems.”

The union was informed by city officials in early July that the city would no longer need any concessions, according to the statement.

“Once again, we were astonished and greatly surprised at the city’s change in direction, but relieved that our city’s finances are getting better and there was no need for any concessions from our group or any other employee group,” according to the statement.