Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr and Cheyenne Professional Firefighters I.A.F.F. Local 279 Union President Jon Bertsch announced late Tuesday evening the City and the Firefighters Union Local 279 have come to a contract agreement following negotiations.
The city and firefighters agreed to a one year contract with a 2 percent increase in base pay. Non-uniformed city staff were given an across-the-board increase in the last budget cycle of 2.5 percent out of reserves.
During the negotiations, the City’s priorities were focused on overtime predictability, management rights, and sustainability of service structure. The Union centered their priorities on life safety (citizens and members of the department), employee retention, and listening to the City’s reference points.
City officials and union representatives sat down seven different times to work out a deal. The union entered the negotiations asking for a 5 percent base pay increase over one year. The City initially offered a 1 percent base pay increase on a one year contract.
“I am very pleased we have reached this agreement,” said Mayor Orr. “We have worked tirelessly over the last three weeks to make sure we moved this process along with an end result that everyone is pleased with.”
“The firefighters are happy with the process, and we enjoyed working with the City,” said Bertsch. “We look forward to a mutual effort in moving forward with the City. Most importantly, we love serving this City 24 hours a day with the best service available.”
The negotiations, for the first time in recent history, were purposely designed by Mayor Orr to foster communication.
“I listened to Local 279 Union President Jon Bertsch, said Orr, when he told me they (the union) felt the atmosphere of prior negotiations were not conducive to collaboration – to collective bargaining. The governing body was seated on the dais, looking below to the firefighters. I could see how that arrangement was not conducive to talks, and I insisted in bringing everyone to the same level with one round table for representatives from each party to be seated around.”
“I was told the only way to record the proceedings was from the dais, and I countered that we could, and would, find a way to record the proceedings from a round table in chambers. And thanks to our facility team, we had the first ever round table negotiations.”
During those negotiations, Mayor Orr made it clear to the union that she is “very concerned about the City’s financial picture going forward. I have asked all City departments to provide me with flat, or better yet, reduced budgets for the next fiscal year.
Mayor Orr also is concerned about fire department overtime. “Overtime costs are projected to exceed $500,000 this year alone. I don’t want any surprises, she said. “I don’t want what has previously occurred – the department seeking additional overtime funding because it spent its budgeted overtime in the first four months. That’s not good management. Period. The union agrees, and we will work together to reign this in. Together, we can control our overtime costs.”