Longboat Key firefighters haven’t received step increases or cost-of-living adjustments since 2008, the last year town employees received pay raises.
But during Nov. 1 negotiations, the town’s firefighter union presented a proposal that would bring back wage hikes — and make up for lost time.
The contract proposed by firefighters would put the step plan back in place and restore all employees “to their proper step” as of Oct. 1, with any employee who has topped out of the system receiving a 3% COLA.
For example, a firefighter hired during the 2007 fiscal year most likely rose from Step 1 to Step 2 in 2008. If the town’s budget situation had not changed, that firefighter would be approaching Step 6 for the new fiscal year. The plan proposed by firefighters would bring that firefighter from Step 2 to Step 6.
A firefighter/paramedic at Step 2 could see his or her base pay increase from $52,911.04 annually to $64,296.96 at Step 6, if the town agreed to the firefighter proposal, according to the town pay-and-classification plan attached to the contract.
“We want (a firefighter) to go back to where he should be,” said Keith Tanner, Longboat Key Fire Rescue district vice president.
The contract also includes a pension proposal put forth by firefighters, for which the town and union disagree about the potential for cost savings.
Other changes include an increase in vacation accrual ranging from a 24-hour increase for employees with less than five years of service to a 48-hour increase for those with more than 14 years, along with a clothing allowance increase from $10.57 per pay period to $30.
The town didn’t declare impasse with its firefighters during Thursday’s meeting, as expected. Firefighters presented their proposed contract toward the end of negotiations after more than two hours of pension discussions.
The town and firefighters will meet again at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.
The town’s labor attorney, W. Reynolds Allen, said that the town would meet “three, four, five days in a row,” if necessary, to determine if it can reach an agreement with its firefighters.
“We don’t want this to drag on forever,” Allen said. “It’s costing money every time that we do this.”
The latest round of negotiations have been ongoing since March and have focused primarily on the firefighter pension since early May, when Town Manager Dave Bullock proposed freezing the plan and setting up 401(a) accounts for future employee benefits. Firefighters have said the proposal is unacceptable to them and that their union has presented fair, alternative proposals to the town.
Firefighters are currently working on a contract that expired Sept. 30, 2011.