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Public safety officers, field personnel reach union agreements with Missoula airport

The air traffic control tower watches over the airfield at the Missoula Montana Airport. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Public safety officers and the Missoula Montana Airport reached a bargaining agreement that’s expected to cover the next four years and carry the facility through the next phase of terminal construction.

The Missoula County Airport Authority this week approved the agreement between the International Association of Firefighters Local 2457 and the airport.

“Two years ago, our public safety officers seceded from the Montana Federation of Public Employees,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “They wanted to look at a different union option and they went one-plus year without representation with the intent of joining the Montana Association of Professional Firefighters.”

Ellestad said the airport looked at the pay in similar fields and locations and settled on $30.60 an hour. In comparison, Missoula city police earn $30.80 while firefighters earn $29.71 in their first year after full certification.

Public safety officers at the airport cover fire, police and emergency medical services.

“Bargaining went pretty smoothly,” Ellestad said. “My goal from the beginning was to get a long-term agreement that would stretch through the next phase of the terminal construction.”

The airport also approved an understanding with the Montana Federation of Public Employees as it relates to the facility’s building and field personnel. Ellestad said the union covers 14 employees at the airport.

The agreement will also be in place for four years and is based on similar jobs at other locations. The agreement settled on a starting pay of $27.17 an hour and moves to $31.97 after five years.

In comparison, the Pasco Washington Airport starts at $25.33 and climbs to $29.69 after 18 months while in Bozeman, the pay ranges from $30 to $35.

Road crews at Missoula County earn around $30.05.

“Our wage seems to be comparable with other airport and community entities. Our guys do a great job. They come calling at every snowstorm. We’re happy to have them, as they do their jobs very well,” Ellestad said.