By MALLORY GRUBEN
Portland Fire Fighters Association Local 43 and the City of Portland reached agreement on a new four-year contract on June 21, nine days before their previous agreement expired. Portland City Council members made the contract official on July 19 with a unanimous vote. It runs through June 30, 2027.
The contract covers almost 700 firefighters working for the city. In addition to regular cost of living adjustments, it increases pay 4.5% over four years, sets a four-person minimum to operate any apparatus or vehicle, and codifies the working schedule and mental health coordinator, who serves as an in-house resource to connect firefighters with mental health services. The contract also created a performance review process and discipline matrix, two pieces city negotiators wanted.
“It was really a collaborative effort,” said Local 43 President Isaac McLennan. “The reason this was successful was because all parties wanted to reach a deal and not go through a long drawn out arbitration.”
In the 21 years McLennan has worked as a city firefighter, negotiations have never reached agreement on a new contract before a previous contract expires. Along with council members, he credited “interest-based” bargaining for making it happen this year.
Under that negotiating approach, the bargaining teams do not come with pre-planned proposals, as they would in more traditional “positional” bargaining. Instead, they outline their interests, gather supporting information, and brainstorm ways together to meet each side’s needs. In this case, firefighters and city HR agreed that they wanted to improve safety, health, and wellbeing for workers, and remain competitive in the job market. Local 43 and the city agree that this contract meets those goals.