AUSTIN (KXAN) — An arbitrator has ruled on a labor contract between the City of Austin and the Austin Firefighters Association (AFA). The contract is effective as of Friday and does not require approval from the AFA or city council.
The contract will be in place until October 2025. Because the fire association’s contract expired roughly a year ago, the contract factors in back pay and is considered a 3-year contract starting in October 2022.
Firefighters will be paid roughly 4% more year-over-year for the duration of the contract starting in October of last year, according to the city. Because the contract covers the past year, firefighters will see a roughly 8% wage increase starting in October 2023.
Assistant fire chiefs and firefighters in specialized units — the wildfire battalion, arson division and dispatch division — will get stipends. It also provides the option for additional time off for firefighters moving forward.
“I don’t think it was a deal that makes us whole as promised by the City, to keep us up with the cost of living, but it does stop the bleeding,” AFA President Chief Bob Nicks said.
“Regardless of our belief that the arbitration panel delivered us a fair decision, going forward, our hope and continued goal is that we will be able to mutually achieve the next labor contract with the Firefighters Association through the collective bargaining process,” said Acting Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills.
According to the city, the award also includes the elimination of random drug testing and “excuses firefighters from discipline who test positive for cannabis so long as they have a prescription for medical cannabis, are using it as prescribed, and are not impaired while on the job.”
Previously, the city announced it did not reach an agreement with the AFA, which required the arbitrator to hear evidence from both sides and make a decision.
The fire union president said it would not submit the final city-proposed contract to its members for a vote.
“The fire department has been treated very unfairly and denigrated over the last eight years,” Nicks said. “Our wages have dipped, while the rest of the fire departments have gotten better. We’re not even the highest paid in Travis County.”