City Cuts Deal With Firefighters

This just in: The City of San Jose and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 230 have agreed tentatively to reduce firefighters’ total compensation by 10 percent.

Mayor Chuck Reed and union president Jeff Welch will hold a 6pm press conference today outside of City Hall at 200 E. Santa Clara St.. A source close to the negotiations said the deal was close to what was previously reported on San Jose Inside, minus the retirement portion, because the city wants to study actuarial schedules in greater detail.


TERM July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2013

• Cost Sharing Formula
• Healthcare HMO Plan Design
• Health And/Or Dental In Lieu
• Health Care Dual Coverage
• Minimum Staffing
• Retiree Healthcare Funding
• Uniform Allowance
• Airport Fire Services
• Support Paramedics


• Sick Leave Payoff
• Retirement Benefits for current and new employees
• Layoff
• Supplemental Retiree Benefits Reserve (SRBR)
• Subsidy for Public Transit
• Grievances
—> Elimination of USAR 16
—> Support Paramedic Pay
—> Uniform Allowance
• Wellness Program

This agreement is still considered tentative and shall not be considered final or binding until ratified by the membership and approved by the City Council. This document sets forth the full agreements of the parties reached during these negotiations. Anything not included in this document is not part of the Tentative Agreement.

Alex Gurza
Director of Employee Relations

Jeff Welch
San Jose Fire Fighters, Local 230 President

Tentative Agreement Between Firefighters and City.

Letter From City Negotiator Alex Gurza to Jeff Welch, President of Local 230.

Side Agreement Between the City and Firefighters.


  1. A big problem remains… even by taking a 10% cut Figone , Reed and Company are still threatening to lay off 82 firefighters. Had Local 230 done nothing they could have lost up to 149.

    • Paul,
      You are right unless the new fire chief can find additional savings to make up the difference.  As I understand it, that is exactly what he intends to do.  His plan will be unveiled shortly and it will make up the difference and avoid layoffs.  Stay tuned!

  2. Interesting that the topic of OT for battalion chiefs was not on the table.  According to the FY 10-11 compensation profile, Batt Chiefs already earn nearly $174K, AND yet are eligible for OT. 

    Deb had mentioned this at a recent management meeting that this was something that the City was going to fix.  Apparently not. 

    Batt Chiefs are the equivalent of Division Managers and Deputy Directors elsewhere in the City, but DMs (as well as most salaried workers) do not get OT pay, yet they put in the time.

    According to the City’s searchable salaries database, one Batt Chief pulled in $110k in OT.  A Chief pulled in $112k.  Combined that’s over 1FTE, someone’s job elsewhere in the city.

    This is a problem.

    • stevie, i have to wonder if you are trying out for the role of debbie downer on saturday night live…bat chiefs are paid overtime, as are firefighters because the department is understaffed.

      the city made a strategic decision to be chronically understaffed to save money—it is cheaper to pay an employee overtime to cover necessary functions as opposed to hiring full time benefited employees to cover the same necessary function.  if the city made the decision to hire employees in the appropriate numbers then overtime would decrease, ahhhh, but then overall costs would increase—-it’s a catch 22 but overtime is cheaper to the taxpayer.

      this agreement is a major concession that will keep staffing at its current level and provide much needed relief to the general fund.  so cheer up stevie, things are headed in the right direction.

      • You give me far too much credit for being a Debbie Downer. 

        Can you name one City Department that ISN’T understaffed?  Neither can I. And there are plenty of management personnel in those Departments, myself included, that are not eligible for OT, yet we all work far longer than our 8hr work shift.  Silly me, that I thought Bat Chiefs and Chiefs were management.  Just sayin.

        • Management in other departments get vacation sell back, PTO days, and other perks and thus are ineligible for OT.  Bat Chiefs are in the Local 230 bargaining unit, don’t know about levels above that, thus they are not management.  Some departments that are not understaffed: Office of Economic Development, Office of the City Manager (Not a dept.), ESD, Budget Office, Clerks Office…just to name a few.

        • Do your homework. You are misinformed by your fearless government leaders. They have done an outstanding job pulling the wool over your eyes!

    • Interesting that the topic of children was not on the table. According to several sources, many firefighters have two or more children. In fact, they seem to have more children than similar positions in the private sector.

      Successful economies like China are leading the way, crushing America’s competitiveness with their enormously successful “one family, one child” policy. Many other city employees have only one child, and I am disappointed that this same limitation was not secured in this contract. Deb said that controlling healthcare costs was something the City wanted to fix, but these excessive children are an ongoing drain on taxpayers.

      Seriously, sounds like the city negotiated the deal they wanted. They could have won more, the firefighters could have given up less. Its a negotiation. If they wanted BC pay controlled, they could have put it higher priority on their list. Seems like they got things worth far more – 10% total comp from 800 (??) firefighters. Probably worth at least a few dollars more than overtime for several Division Managers.

      And, ahem, why should controlling these managers’ pay be use to save “someone’s job elsewhere in the city”… that should go directly to reduce the City’s budget and passed on to taxpayers.

  3. Anyone with Chief in their title is management not firefighters so under staffing argument is not valid

    Management is paid higher for both responsibilities and managers are not paid overtime.

    San Jose has yearly budget shortfalls and under staffing but pays fire department management over time with limited budget means less firefighters

    OH well, we can see where all fire chief’s individual priorities are when Fire Department management wants

    1) millions for many chief’s overtime while crying blues about fire under staffing
    2) has 4 firefighters per truck unlike all SCC cities with 3
    3) sends 2 fire trucks and 8 firefighters to EMS calls when many times 2 EMT on small medical truck to stabilize patient and AMR’s fully staffed ambulance to treat and transport will do

  4. One, two, three, four, I declare a Union war.

    I love watching the unions fight each other in public like gladiators in the ring, each thinking their post here will win favor with the public. They each poke at the other, bringing them all down!

    • There’s no union fight here to win favor with the public; I think we all know that the public, yourself included, pretty much hate all public servants. Our City leadership has succeeded in seeing to that. It’s pointless to even try to turn that one around.

      My primary interest, and I think that of most of my colleagues too, is that the pain is shared somewhat equally across all groups.

      Despite what you think is a “war” between unions, it is not.  I still have tremendous respect for the work performed by those in public safety.  I only hope to never need their service, but am thankful that it is there if and when needed.

      • Sure there is a union war brewing.  FD is bucking for the $15 mil fed dollars so they can hold off any future cuts to staff.  That means any cuts in the city will have to come from other areas (i.e. other union city workers)  FD is pulling a fast one after they got spanked by the public with measures V & W when the public said NO MORE greed they’re still out bucking just for themselves rather than playing fair with their union compatriots. 

        The other 9 or so unions (non PD & FD) should blame the police and fire unions for using strong arm tactics that only benefit themselves. 

        They aren’t making consessions with their agreed to cuts, they’re just seeing the writing on the wall.  Its not goodwill when you’re making a side deal to stick it to your “unions” brothers and sisters.

        So much for brotherhood.  Unions should have the continued right to collective bargaining and the public should have the right to see how greedy and uncompromising they are AND be able to vote (like we did with V & W) to limit their fleecing of the city.

        Tell us again the percentage of firefighters that actually live in the city and pay taxes here???

        • SJFF did not make acceptance of the federal grant a condition of there contract offer.  The $15M federal grant could only be used to re-hire the 49 FF that were laid off last year, that is the only thing that the money could be used for.  It would be for two years and then the grant would be over. 

          Where is the fast one?  The 10% total comp cut, 1.25% prefunding of retiree medical, dropping staffing from 5 to 4 on trucks and comprehensive retirement reform are the elements of the proposal—-again, where is the fast one?

          Where is this side deal?  You should change your name from interesting to ijustwannamakestuffupandpostit

    • Collective Bargaining is alive and well in San Jose as demonstrated by the recent events of this week.  6 of the City unions have agreed to share the pain and work toward saving jobs and protecting services.  Some may see this as a fight, as one involved in this process I don’t see it as a fight but rather an education process.

      As the reality sets in as to the options the city has to close the deficit the realization that the only way to protect jobs is to give back in the form of pay and benefit concessions…some unions realized that a little earlier than others, that is what is happening now, nothing more nothing less.

      • Ok, I tried to make my point with sarcasm. Please let me say it another way.

        If you are a member of a city union, and are posting messages here about other bargaining groups about regarding much they did/didn’t give up or the terms of their contract, you are only creating an image of infighting.

        No member of the public is so into the details as to care about the nuances, no matter how important they are.

        Your comments only serve to fuel you distractors and those who hate public servents.

        You are each giving ammo to those who are out to destroy you by any means necessary.

        THIS IS NOT a good forum for these discussions if you are looking for anything positive to come from them.

        • You’re right Union Fight. Their bickering reinforces the impression that many already have of our public employees. This squabbling amongst the unions is like a group of buzzards picking over a carcass. The people don’t really care about details such as which buzzard gets the eyeballs and which one gets the entrails.

  5. The San Jose Fire Department was the ONLY city bargaining group who had not already made concessions. The fire department is making a 10% concession, which is a large amount. Other groups who have already made concessions are now going to be asked to make an additional 10% concession on top of their past give backs. To be on par with the other bargaining groups, the fire department would have to give back more like 15-20%. They got a good deal compared to the other city groups and are of course the heroes for today for their 10% give back.

    • Sorry Tom, your wrong…. The other bargaining groups which gave 10% last year are being asked to continue that 10% reduction….. NOT an additional 10%!!!!!!

      Just the facts dude…..

      • Ernest,
        The San Jose police officer voted 2 contracts ago to accept prefunding retiree health care by 1% a year for 5 years for at total of a 5% reduction. They voted last year to pay about 5% more into retirement and huge increases in our copays which also went into effect last year, and elimination of our equipment allowance. We are going to be asked to continue both of these cuts, which have totaled over 10%, and take additional cuts. It seems that it has been forgotten by the city and media that the SJPOA voted almost 3 years ago to prefund retiree health care – so long ago in fact that it seemingly isn’t going to be counted as part of the 10% reduction we will be asked to take going forward. As I understand it, the fire department is going to take a 10% reduction but part of this is prefunding retiree health care. I would hope in the upcoming negotiations the SJPOA and the city both remember we have already agreed to a permanent 5% paycut by prefunding our retiree health care, and that if they make permanent the addition 5% we have been paying into retirement this past year, that is 10%, just as the fire department agreed to a few days ago. Any additional cuts the city asks the police department to take will be beyond the 10% the fire department or any other group has taken.

        The ultimate bottom line is that all of us are being demonized and demoralized for all the financial problems by the mayor and city council. Maybe if they hadn’t spent millions on car races, golf courses, a $575 million city hall, and failure to make correct contributions into city retirement, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We are all the easy targets right now.

        • Wow, no wonder there is so much confusion in the PD ranks these days——your facts and revisionist history are wrong—-let me see if I can correct some of it.

          SJPD voted to begin pre-funding retiree health care to the tune of 1.25% per year for a total of 5 years—the city in exchange gave you a raise to pay for this pre-funding—-a wash at best and upside for the pd employees since the pre-funding is pre-tax thus lowering the tax burden for employees.

          Last year, SJPOA agreed to about a 4% total comp cut made as an additional contribution to retirement—-this is pre-tax as well, meaning the city gets the full amount of the additional contribution but the employee gets the tax benefit of using pre-tax dollars which lowers the tax burden on the individual employee.

          SJFF agreed to a 10% total comp reduction taken as a base wage cut AND to pay an additional 1.25% to pre-fund retiree medical.  The 1.25% is not counted toward the 10% total comp—-go read the signed tentative agreements on the city website.

          You did not agree to a permanent 5% paycut to pre-fund retiree medical, it sunsets 5 years from the first year you paid.

          There is a big difference in a 10% pay cut and a 10% total compensation cut.

          Oh, and I agree that the city continues to waste money all the time and that the public should be outraged at this waste.

        • Sorry Wow, you got your facts wrong. We never got a raise to make up for the 5% extra we agreed to pay to prefund our retiree medical. The 5% also does not sunset after 5 years; it will take 5 years to attain the full 5% deduction. It is 1% increase for 5 years (not 1.25%); we are not in our third year thus 3% has kicked in so far. Fire agreed to 1.25% because up until now it has been 0%. We have also experienced massive increases in our medical costs which you will now get to enjoy. We also got our safety equipment allowance taken away which I think you were lucky enough to avoid.

          You are right about one thing; there is plenty of confusion. Confusion and anger and demoralized employees.

        • Last year fire and police were arm in arm when they offered a package to Reed et al. They took the offer from PD, but refused the same offer from the FD.  Now they are accepting the FD offer and PD is pissed?  Divide and conquer is in full effect.  Hey guys, stay united or fall divided.

    • Clearly you went to the George Bush school of Math.  Some bargaining units gave a 10% total compensation reduction last year, 5% was one-time and 5% was permanent and ongoing.  This year the council asked for the 5% that was one-time to be made permanent to continue the total of 10% total comp cut, not an additional 10% that would have made it 20%.

      Last year fire and four other bargaining units did not do the full 10% and in fire’s case they did nothing last year and 49 ff were laid off.  The 49 that were laid off equated to a 8.91% reduction in total comp, so the city got its savings.

      They are now doing a 10% total comp reduction, an additional 1.25% to fund retiree medical, increased co-pays for health care, premiums, prescriptions and in-patient/out-patient procedures.

      They also proposed a two tier pension plan that would cap retiree health care costs and reduce pensions for new hires AND offered an opt-in for current employees to join into the lower cost and lower benefit plan.

      Hope this helps.

      • Cleary everyone is going to the Bush school of Math. Unfortunately, some unions gave more than the 10% asked by the city. They unfroze the step increases but you had to work an additional 2080 hours from the time they froze them to get it, and now they are asking for them to be frozen again. And the following is how the city broke down the 10% reduction:

        5% Ongoing Total Compensation Savings
        Employees will make an additional retirement contribution of 7.75%.

        5% One-time Total Compensation Savings
        Employees will also make an additional retirement contribution in the amount of 3.08%.
        Employees shall receive a 3.35% temporary base pay reduction.

        I am not a mathematician, but thats 14%! So much for transparency the city says it strives for.

        • Remember the concession was 10% TOTAL COMPENSATION not 10% pay cut.  Total compensation includes all benefits and pay, etc..  The additional retirement contribution is pre-tax, thus it lowers the tax burden of the employee groups that offered this path to the total comp concession so in essence the the hit to the employees was not a full 10% total comp cut but the city did realize the full amount.

          The groups that agreed to the 10% total comp cut last year did not have their step increases frozen.  10% total comp cut will equal a more than 10% pay cut.

        • The groups that agreed to the 10% total comp cut last year did not have their step increases frozen. 

          Where did you hear this? Our steps were actually frozen several years ago.

      • “an additional 1.25% to fund retiree medical, increased co-pays for health care, premiums, prescriptions and in-patient/out-patient procedures.”

        We are now in our 4th year of prefunding our retiree medical, our copays went up several years ago and have gone up even more since then, we started paying more into our retirement last contract to save our fellow workers rather than lay-offs. I could give you more examples.

        10% is a big hit, but I guarantee you the city will be asking all the other bargaining units to not just continue their previous 10% cuts, but to slash even further.

  6. I love how no one here has mentioned that MEF and CEO took 2% increases last year when everyone else (except fire) took cuts. The 10% total comp is close to 18% in reality. No one talks about that. With the cuts all manager unions took and the increase for MEF and CEO there are over 400 managers making less money than the people they supervise. How often does that happen in the private sector?

    • Hey Dork,

      We gave back our 2nd rear raise of 1.5& so we still got two raisesjust like everyone else.  We signed a three year contract and everyone else signed a two year contract.  If we gave back our 2% last year while still under contract; we would of effectively had 1 raise in three years when everyone else got two raises before they were imposed on by the City.

      • Everyone else gave up the two years prior also. Net impact MEF and CEO are 2% up on everyone else. You can look that up on OERs website. Not to mention MEF has 58 employees making 6 figures, including your president. MEF is also giving misinformation. You do not have any benefited employees making $10 an hour like the Merc article stated. You can look that up on the city’s HR site. The only employees making $10 are interns.

        The only good thing I’ve ever seen from Alex is his recent letter to Yolanda and Laverne. They are not doing you any good. You need new presidents who will accurately represent you.

  7. If Police and Fire hadn’t been so greedy over the past 15 years and insisted on bumping up their pensions from 80% to 90% you probably wouldn’t be in this mess. Now fire is proposing a 75% maximum payout (2.5 per year) and probably won’t get that. Nice going.

    You are irght about the city hall though.  Never could see how the public bought that nonsence that the 500 million dollar city hall would pay for itself.

    Magic beans anyone ???

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