The local firefighters union has voted to ratify its two-year contract that includes concessions estimated to save the city $5.8 million.

Frank DeClercq, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 145, said the agreement calls for a two-year salary and benefit freeze.

Firefighters are also agreeing to pick up a larger share of their retirement contributions, cut their $900 annual uniform allowance nearly in half, lower their rate of return in the deferred retirement program, and give up 140 hours in holiday pay.

Like other unions, the firefighters agreed to freeze the amount retirees receive for health care at $8,880 a year for the next two years. And they will spend the next two years talking with the city about revamping the retiree medical care program.

“If we don’t come to an agreement, and I’m optimistic that we will, the status quo will be restored on June 30, 2011,” DeClercq said.

DeClercq said he didn’t know the exact vote count for members who voted to ratify the contract on Thursday night and today, but estimated that around 98 percent voted in favor.

He said the concessions were “a bitter pill to swallow” for the membership, but added: “We want to help at a tough time. The economy’s bad everywhere. It’s better for us to be part of the solution.”

DeClercq said the city has also agreed to conduct a salary and benefit study that he expects to show the city’s firefighters “at the lowest end of the spectrum.” He said he hopes that as the economy improves, the firefighters’ concessions will be recognized when future contracts are drawn up.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the city had come to tentative agreements with the firefighters, deputy city attorneys and white-collar employees. The City Council voted 8-0 to impose contracts on blue-collar workers and police.


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