A ruling by a state labor-relations board led the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and its firefighters, who have been working without a contract for seven years, to settle their differences and agree to a new contract.
Firefighters will be receiving a total of $1.5 million from the district as a consequence of the district's having engaged in unlawful piecemeal bargaining and acting unilaterally, according to a set of rulings by the state Public Employment Relations Board.
The rulings, issued in August 2014, resolved two sets of charges brought by firefighters from San Mateo County Firefighters Local 2400 against the fire district, and established a context over the past 11 months for the two parties to conclude years of "protracted and contentious negotiations," Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a press release.
The employment relations board ordered the district to pay a total of $460,968 to 30 employees and another total of $1,063,143 to 92 employees. The payments include 7 percent interest and are intended to make the employees whole for lost wages and benefits, according to copies of the rulings recently posted on the fire district's website.
The district could have filed an appeal, "but (the fire board) trusted the Union, my staff and me to collaboratively work out the details of the settlements and, more importantly, put together a new contract that resolved all outstanding issues and met both party's needs," the chief said.
The five-member fire district governing board approved the posting on the web of a tentative contract in a 4-1 vote on July 7, with Chuck Bernstein dissenting. The final agreement, which the board will consider for approval on Aug. 25, is expected to cost the district a total of $9.8 million over four years, Chief Schapelhouman said.
In 2014, a firefighter-engineer in the middle of the pay range made a base annual salary of $111,700, according to the memorandum of understanding accompanying the new contract.
Firefighters' average base salaries would rise by up to 9 percent in the 2014-15 budget year just ended, and by up to 3 percent in each of the following three years.
Under the new deal, firefighters would pay 12 percent of pension costs, retroactive to 2014-15, up from the 9 percent they are paying now. This will save the district around $1.2 million over four years, the chief said. Firefighters would also pay 10 percent of the costs for health care coverage.
The contract includes a stipend for firefighters who live within 60 miles of the district, starting at $200 a month and rising to $300 by the end of the contract.
Go to menlofire.org to see the contract documents. The documents are available for public comment at the fire district's website until the close of business on Monday, Aug. 24.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story was incorrect in stating that the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District had approved a tentative agreement on July 7, 2015. The board had approved the website posting of the agreement.