PLEASANT PRAIRIE — After agreeing to a pay freeze in the first year, full-time Pleasant Prairie firefighters and paramedics will see a wage thaw under a new three-year contract approved unanimously Monday night by the Village Board.
The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011, and runs through Dec. 31, 2013.
The pay freeze retroactively covers 2011, which was coupled with pay freezes in 2009 and 2010. The pay hikes total 7 percent — 3 percent in 2012; 4 percent in 2013.
Under the contract with Pleasant Prairie Firefighters, International Association of Firefighters Local 3785, the raises will be set Jan. 2 and July 1 in each of the last two years of the collective bargaining agreement. That is, for 2012, they’ll be split into two 1.5 percent increases. For 2013, there will be 2 percent increases at each six-month interval.
The 24-member union ratified the contract last month. A formal signing date has not yet been set by village and union officials.
Other terms include members contributing 3 percent of their 2012 wages and 2.9 percent of their 2013 wages to the Wisconsin Retirement System. In addition, they will now pay 8 percent of their health insurance premium — 3 percent in 2012 and 5 percent in 2013.
Not keeping pace
Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff said union and village officials worked together to reach agreement. He said looking at comparable wages with other departments showed full-time village firefighters and paramedics had not kept pace.
“We found ways to make things better for everybody,” Pollocoff said, acknowledging that non-unionized village employee contributions to benefit packages will be higher than those of Local 3785 members.
Local 3785 president Ryan Holm and executive board member Aaron Longrie were happy with the outcome.
“In a difficult political and financial environment, it was still a win for both parties,” Holm said. “We got a little bit of a lift in our pay. One of our concerns was the external comparables to other fire departments because we were on the low end. And our residency (restriction) was matched up with police. Before, we were right on the boundaries with police.”
Longrie said being at the low end of comparable pay, while serving a higher-income community, members had little leeway to explore more affordable housing farther outside the village.
“With more restrictive boundaries, we didn’t have many places to go. It’s a great community, and we wanted to generate that interest for people to be here, especially in this profession,” Longrie said.