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Reno Firefighters Could See Some Lost Wages Restored


Under a proposed labor agreement reached by the City of Reno and union leaders, Reno firefighters could see a 6 percent bump in pay to restore some of the wages they lost during the recession. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

At the peak of the recession, Reno firefighters saw their pay slashed by almost 14 percent. Even with this proposed boost of six percent, firefighters in Reno would still earn less than what their peers average across the state. 

Under the tentative agreement, newly hired firefighters will not receive life-long health benefits. Instead, they'll pay into a defined-contribution plan to get benefits after they retirement. 

"This represents an estimated savings of $7,000 per year on average for every new firefighter the city hires," City Manager Andrew Clinger explained at a Thursday press conference, "and will provide insurance benefits to those employees when they retire."

Right now, the city has liabilities for post-employment benefits topping $225 million, and $60 million of that obligation is for firefighters.

At the press conference, Clinger also discussed the city's support of a regional fire service plan that consolidates local forces. He'll present that idea next week to both the Reno City Council and Washoe County Board of Commissioners.

There's a bill in the legislature now pushing for automatic aid instead, which would require the closest fire engine to respond to an emergency regardless of what jurisdiction its in. Clinger says consolidating local departments is a better option.

"Under automatic aid," Clinger said, "there's inefficiencies built into that because you will have apparatus from both jurisdictions responding at the same time. Under a regional fire model, you don't have that so you eliminate some of those inefficiencies."

City council has just approved ten new firefighter positions for next year's budget. This proposed labor agreement would affect those new hires, and council will be reviewing the agreement next week.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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