Lake Forest and its firefighters enter into a 4-year contractual agreement; “Understanding everyone’s positions led to the success of this contract”

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The town of Lake Forest and its firefighters have reached an agreement on a new contract that provides for the first time formal paternity leave for employees.

During its meeting on May 2, the municipal council approved the new four-year pact.

“I’m really pleased with how it turned out and that we were able to come to an agreement,” City Manager Jason Wicha said.

As part of the contract with the local branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), firefighters will have a newly instituted parental leave policy. Human Resources Director Amber Campbell said this is the first time the city has had this type of arrangement.

“Previously, other types of leave were used for the birth/adoption of a child,” Campbell wrote in an email. “The newly added section in the fire department contract allows for three days of parental leave that can be used before other types of leave.”

The new parental leave policy was important for union members, according to Erik Kositski, the local president of the IAFF.

“We want to be a department that embraces both female and male partners or colleagues and in doing so we understand that in the new world of fire service these are changes that need to be made to continue to attract new great candidates who want to work for the City of Lake Forest,” Kositski said.

The contract covers 21 employees who are either firefighters or fire paramedics, plus six fire paramedics, according to Campbell.

Employees will see a salary increase of 2.85% in 2023, followed by increases of 2.75%, 2.65% and 2.5% each of the following three years.

The average salary for a Lake Forest firefighter is $94,066, Campbell said.

Firefighters will also increase their pension contribution, and the two sides have agreed to a four-year deal, moving away from a traditional three-year pact.

Both the city and the union noted a lack of acrimony in the negotiations.

“It can be very difficult to get contracts sometimes win-win in these negotiations, but the fact that these two negotiators were able to do so in a fairly short time frame and without the presence of labor lawyers allows the city to saving considerable resources, and is no small feat,” said Wicha.

Kositski expressed a similar sentiment, adding that the members ratified the contract in late April.

“We had a good, constructive dialogue, and we came together collaboratively and tried to see things through each other’s lenses,” he said. “Understanding everyone’s positions led to the success of this contract.”

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