CAL FIRE firefighters would get 3 raises in 1 year, more time off under contract

The agreement would require approval from union members and the legislature


Wes Venteicher
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California state firefighters would receive three raises in a year in a contract a union president said was aimed at shortening firefighters’ long shifts without cutting their pay.

CAL FIRE Local 2881, which represents about 8,100 permanent and seasonal firefighters, struck a two-year tentative contract agreement Thursday with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. It will require approval from the union’s members and the Legislature to take effect.

The two-year agreement provides a 2.5% raise retroactive to July 1 plus a 2% raise on Jan. 1 and another 2% on July 1.

It calls for reducing state firefighters’ shifts from an average of 72 hours to an average of 66 hours by November 2024.

Local 2881 President Tim Edwards has been pushing for years to reduce state firefighters’ workloads. The state firefighters respond to calls during 72-hour shifts in local government stations, while their local government peers work 56-hour stretches, Edwards said.

On top of that, state firefighters can be called for weeks at a time to fight wildfires. Edwards said suicides, divorces and mental health struggles have increased.

“Families are being broken apart because of the workweek, and because we’re short on staffing, they’re short even more,” he said.

He said the union is still pushing for 56-hour shifts used by local fire departments.

The new agreement also provides $260-per-month stipends to help cover health insurance costs, it bumps longevity stipends up by 2% and it reduces the contributions firefighters must make toward their retirement health insurance by a percentage point, to 3.4% from 4.4% of pay.

The agreement will increase state spending by $126 million per year by 2024, according to a summary posted to the state Human Resources Department website.

Newsom has added funding in recent years to hire more permanent and seasonal firefighters, but Cal Fire is still struggling to retain employees due to grueling conditions on fire lines and competition from local and federal employers.

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©2022 The Sacramento Bee

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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