L.A. firefighter union agrees to delay raises to avoid cuts

The union that represents more than 3,600 Los Angeles city firefighters has agreed to push back a 4.5% raise scheduled for this summer, the latest concession offered up by a labor group as the city seeks to address a major budget crisis, according to a union bulletin sent Thursday.

United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 tentatively agreed to postpone its next pay increase by 18 months in exchange for a guarantee that city leaders would avoid the imposition of “brownouts,” the temporary closure of fire stations, and preserve department staffing, the bulletin said.

City officials are hoping the agreement will help them spur the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents roughly 9,800 officers, to return to the bargaining table and offer their own givebacks. Police officers are scheduled to receive a 3.25% raise in the coming weeks, an amount projected to add $17.3 million to the department’s budget.

Garcetti thanked the firefighters union Thursday, saying the pact would help the city protect critical emergency services. “I’m grateful for their collaboration, and I hope other bargaining units follow this example and come to the table during this difficult moment,” he said.

Craig Lally, president of the LAPD union, said his members have already endured cuts over the last year and are not interested in postponing their pending pay increase.

The council already reduced the LAPD budget by $150 million last summer, he said, cutting the size of the force by 255 officers and scaling back overtime to such a degree that it represents an average reduction in take-home pay of 7.5% per officer.

“It’s welcome news that other city employee groups are sharing in the financial sacrifice police officers have been making,” Lally said in a statement.

The firefighters union’s executive board called the deal fair for both sides, arguing it would help the city weather the financial crunch triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a reduction in taxes, parking fines and other forms of revenue.

“Our firefighters are once again demonstrating that we are fair and reasonable when our city needs us during these extraordinary times,” the union’s board said in the bulletin.

The firefighters’ announcement comes two days after a group of civilian city unions announced they had struck their own agreement to delay a pair of raises for 18 months. That proposal, which also requires a ratification vote, would push two 2% pay increases into the 2022-23 budget year.

In exchange, the city promised not to pursue layoffs or furloughs for civilian city workers during the current budget year, which ends June 30.

Council President Nury Martinez, who sits on the city’s negotiating committee, thanked the various unions for offering new concessions. “They saved us throughout the last year and when called upon to help solve our city’s pandemic-driven fiscal crisis, they stepped up and saved us again,” she said.

The deal with the firefighters extends that union’s contract through 2024. Firefighters received their last raise of 4.75% in July, the first month of the current fiscal year.

The LAPD union’s contract also promised a 4.75% increase, but in two parts — 1.5% in July, and another 3.25% this month.

Lally, the LAPD union president, said the pay increase that’s scheduled for this month “will finally bring us to parity with our public safety counterparts.” It would be unfair, he said, for firefighters to receive their entire raise for the current fiscal year while police officers see only a fraction of theirs.