Government & Politics

Firefighters reach another settlement with city, regarding back pay for fill-in work

For the second time this year, the city’s firefighters union announced Monday that it had reached a deal with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration that will allow firefighters who filled in for their supervisors to be compensated at a higher rate for those hours.

A report by the city’s Civil Service Department  earlier this year found thousands of instances of firefighters forced to fill in for their superiors, known as working “out of class,” while still earning their normal  pay. The city agreed early on to pay higher rates for those hours in the future, but balked at granting the pay retroactively, to 2013, when the union raised the issue.

The city’s bill for back pay could be less than what city officials feared earlier this year when a Civil Service Department staffer said his best guess would run hundreds of thousands of dollars and Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell said he worried it could be even more. Felton said the city calculated that the back pay from November 2013 through May 2015 would cost about $135,000, a figure that he said would be updated.

The union and the city announced a deal during the Civil Service Commission meeting in June, and the Civil Service Commission approved a new rule for prospective pay. But almost immediately after the meeting, the part of the deal applying to retroactive pay appeared to have fallen through due to confusion about its terms, Times-Picayune reported.

At the time, union President Nick Felton said he thought the same standards for the future pay would apply retroactively.

In fact, the offer on the table for back pay was less generous. Under the deal, firefighters would be eligible for increased pay rates after filling in for their superiors, or working “out of class,” for 12 hours in the future. The commission approved that proposal in June. But firefighters owed back pay would have been eligible under an old standard established in the Civil Service Rules, which required that they must have worked out of class for at least five days in a calendar year.

Felton was dismissive of such a deal when he realized what the terms were after the meeting.

“After they get done calculating it the way they want to, they are only going to owe guys 37 cents,” Felton told Times-Picayune in June.

But today, he said he now accepts the five-day standard for back pay, and the 12-hour rule for future pay.

The Lens was not able to confirm the terms of the deal announced Monday because it was not provided to the Civil Service Commission. The Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Civil Service Commission will vote on the agreement, a legal settlement, after city and union officials sign it.

Felton’s union  last week worked out a much larger, unrelated back pay deal with the city.

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