BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County said it’s the first time since March 2015 that all county employee organizations have reached bargaining agreements.
“Something that our entire nation is facing is the recruitment and retention of our law enforcement officers,” said Ally Soper, Chief Communications Officer at Kern County.
The current contract with the local firefighters’ union expired in 2017.
With concerns around a nationwide staffing shortage, the county said this agreement with higher pay and cost of living adjustments would help with employee recruitment and retention.
It would also keep wages competitive with other counties.
“It’s really important for us here at Kern County to show our employees and our workforce that they matter, they bring value. By competitively compensating all of the different employees that are part of this great county, we’re showing that we appreciate them showing up,” said Ally Soper, Chief Communications Officer at Kern County.
That’s why with the new contract agreement in place, the county said there will be an increase in base salaries for current and new firefighters. For the other employee associations that signed into agreements recently.
“Helping basically all of our county employees start on a higher-level base salary and then move up throughout that time. We’re also offering cost of living adjustments to all of our employees,” Soper said.
In December, thousands of county workers got wage increases and more benefits after negotiations between the county and Service Employee’s International Union.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement between the county and the Kern Firefighters Union.
“Specifically for fire, this is really going to give that competitive edge in the recruitment and retention of our workforce at the Kern County Fire Department. Which we need here as a community to make sure that that department stays up and running, so that we can meet the needs of our residents.”
Also included in the contract, is increases in the uniform allowance from $900 to $1,300 annually, and reforming overtime policies.
Between the increased pays, more time off and benefits, the county says it will cost about $10 million.
“Just upping our competitive edge as a Kern County employer base compared to other counties across the state.”
These terms are valid till the end of 2022.
23ABC was curious about how much firefighters are paid currently here in Kern County versus other areas in California. Here's what we found from a 2020 report presented to the Governor and State Legislature this past January.
The 2020 California Firefighter Total Compensation Survey looked at salary, overtime and benefits of 20 stations around the state. Bakersfield came second to last in all positions listed.
Data shows Bakersfield firefighters reported making around $15,017 a month. The least paid station listed was Chula Vista at $14,474. And - the highest paid station is Santa Monica at $25,884.
Apparatus Engineers here in Bako are paid an average of $16,406 each month. Chula Vista again coming in last with an average of $15,477. The highest salary reported is for the City of San Mateo at $29, 991.
Bakersfield again beats Chula vista when it comes to Fire Captain pay and benefits. The department reporting these individuals get paid $19,428 per month. Chula Vista pays these workers $17,961 dollars. The highest paid Fire Captains work for Santa Monica at $32,980.
Finally, looking at what Battalion Chiefs are offered, Chula Vista coming in last at $21,763 per month. Bakersfield is second to last of those surveyed at $22,184. And, the highest salary and benefits are reported at Santa Monica at $39,750.