New contract, big pay boost for S.F. firefighters

San Francisco firefighters are setto receive a 24 percent salary pay raise over a four-year period, according to new contract terms.

The contract gives the 1,726 members of the San Francisco Fire Fighters Union — which includes such commanding ranks as captain — an increase similar to the 23 percent pay hike recently approved for San Francisco police officers. The contract for firefighters expired June 30.

The base pay for a firefighter ranges from $61,438 to $86,008, according to the Fire Department’s Web site. With the 25 percent increase, by 2011, salaries will have jumped an additional $15,359 to $21,502, pushing many firefighters’ wages over $100,000 — without overtime.

The Fire Department spends approximately $139 million on salaries — not including benefits — for firefighters. The new Memorandum of Understanding would increase that amount by $6.1 million this new fiscal year and — with an effective increase of about 6 percent each year — add $44 million to the department’s budget by fiscal year 2010-11, according to the City Controller’s Office.

Unlike the rigorous discussions that took place last month over the recently approved police contract, members of the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee — Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier and Chris Daly — didn’t blink or comment on the increase for The City’s firefighters Tuesday as they approved the MOU. After a few clarifying questions, they moved the contract forward with recommendation to full Board of Supervisors to approve it Aug.7.

Elsbernd said parity provisions between the police and fire contracts meant that the fire contract wasn’t going to have too many surprises — or wiggle room.

The contract, Deputy City Attorney Martin Gran told the board committee, also included some reforms as well as cost savings for The City, particularly in overtime concessions.

By starting overtime pay after a firefighter works 107 hours in twoweeks, rather than 53 hours in one week, The City anticipates saving $3.6 million annually. The new contract also removes paid vacation hours from those used to calculate overtime, which is expected to bring in another $383,000 in cost savings.

The new contract also expands the circumstances under which a firefighter can be tested for substance use, including adding “reasonable suspicion” as a basis for a test, according to a Budget Analyst report. In 2005, the department began random drug and alcohol testing, following reports of on-duty drinking.

beslinger@examiner.com

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