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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010 7 years ago

Contract negotiations stall again

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The town of Longboat Key and its firefighters held a contract negotiation meeting Tuesday, April 27 after the firefighters submitted a new contract the town deemed worthy of consideration.

But the meeting was met with the same result when both sides couldn’t come to an agreement. A special magistrate, both sides agreed, must now settle the differences.

Keith Tanner, a firefighter-paramedic and district vice president for the Longboat Key District of International Association of Firefighters, submitted another contract to the town two weeks ago, which agreed to no wage increases as long as the town left the union’s pension-plan benefits and its health-insurance plan alone for three years.

“In a nutshell, we gave the town what it was asking for,” Tanner said. “And now it wants more.”

Town labor attorney Reynolds Allen of Allen Norton & Blue told The Longboat Observer the contract was “too little, too late.”

“I told the firefighters from the beginning to agree that we should leave the contract alone and come back to the table next year,” Allen said. “Instead, they decided to come back with proposals asking for all sorts of things that will cost the town money.”

The town has consistently said it will not spend any money in a new contract and does not want to give raises to the firefighters when it has not committed to giving other employees raises.

The town has now made four counter-proposals, including one that was submitted in concept Tuesday.
But all of those proposals include the right to reopen the pension plans at any time.

Allen presented a conceptual proposal Tuesday that would give the firefighters cost-of-living allowances and wage increases in years two and three of a contract, only if other town employees receive raises.

But that same offer calls for giving the town the right to close the existing pension plan with 60 days written notice and not allowing firefighters to use vacation and sick-leave payout as part of their final compensation package. The offer also allows firefighters to consider whether they don’t want 401(k) contributions to continue or if they want to allow the contributions to continue if they agree to give up cost-of-living allowances.

“The town,” the conceptual proposal states, “has the right to implement a new pension plan of its own design for employees hired in the event the current plan is closed.”

When it became apparent the union would not agree to the conceptual proposal, both sides agreed an impasse on negotiations was still apparent.

Allen said the town is not willing to count vacation time or sick-leave payouts in determining compensation for pension purposes. And the town will not agree to maintain the insurance plan as is for two-and-a-half years.

The town is also not willing to continue to allow firefighters to count sick time as hours worked when calculating overtime.

Contact Kurt Schulteis at [email protected].

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