ABQ firefighters may get 2.5% pay bump

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Albuquerque City Council is expected to vote on a bump in pay for firefighters which would be the first for the department since they took a cut when Mayor Richard Berry took office.

With this proposal and another recent proposal by the city’s police union, some wonder if anything will come soon for the rest of the city’s employees. One city councilor says it’s at least in preliminary consideration.

The most recent proposal for firefighters would bring a 2.5 percent pay bump in paychecks.

“We do view this as a restoration package,” said Diego Arencón, president of the Albuquerque-area chapter of the International Association of Fire Firefighters.

While Arencón says the proposed pay bump is what his fellow 600+ Albuquerque firefighters should have gotten years ago, he says it’s a good start.

“For the first time now, we’ve actually having some productive dialogue,” said Arencón.

The proposal also includes an additional 2 percent raise for AFD’s drivers and lieutenants as part of a retention effort. If it passes a City Council vote Monday night, it should go to a IAFF union vote in the next two weeks.

“And I’m fairly optimistic about that. We have been through a lot,” said Arencón.

Meanwhile, some city councilors agree. District 1 counselor Ken Sanchez, who helped draft the deal, says it’s been a long time coming.

“I definitely think it’s the important and right thing to do,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez says he too views this as a pay “restoration” package after Berry cut employee pay for virtually everyone in 2009 to help balance the budget.

The firefighter union sued the city in 2009 when the mayor’s office didn’t fulfill a pay increase laid out in their contracts. The union says it will continue to pursue the lawsuit, despite the pay restoration proposal.

Now with a potential deal for city firefighters, the question remains: Will the city look toward including its other several thousand employees in raises of their own?

“The proposed budget by Mayor Berry does call for a 1 percent increase across the board for all city employees,” said Sanchez.

However, Sanchez says the city should probably look beyond 1 percent.

“If we have the additional revenues in place that we should restore each and every employee of the City of Albuquerque back to 2.5 percent, if it’s possible,” said Sanchez

He says it all depends on money the city brings in though.

“We need to be very cautious in how we proceed forward because there could be a dip again, a decline in the economy,” said Sanchez.

As for Albuquerque police, the union recently rejected the 2.5 percent pay bump the city offered and is now in the process of negotiating a new deal.

The city has come under fire recently for one big raise it handed out last year to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry. He got a 22 percent pay increase worth an extra $33,000 a year. The mayor’s office defended the raise, saying Perry was being pursued by other companies.

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