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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 7 years ago

Firefighter contract discussions linger

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The town of Longboat Key rejected a counter-proposal by the Longboat Key Fire Rescue union Wednesday, Jan. 20.

The union said the offer (which included no changes for the first year of the union’s now-expired three-year contract) was its best and final offer. In its proposal, the union said if the offer wasn’t acceptable, it would appreciate the town manager’s best offer.

The town’s best offer, which was also presented Wednesday, includes revisions to sick-and-paid leave and overtime that firefighters found unacceptable.

For instance, the town no longer wants to count absences due to sickness or injury as hours worked for the purpose of computing overtime eligibility.

The firefighters, meanwhile, asked for their expired contract to be reinstated, with no wage- and cost-of-living increases requested in the first year of the contract.

But in year two of the contract, the union is asking for wage and cost-of-living increases. And in year three, the union wants a cost-of-living adjustment comparable to the Sarasota County Fire Department and wants the town to contribute $500 per person for a new health trust fund.

But the town rejected the offer, and the union wants to come back to the town one final time with a revised offer.

“I think it’s a very fair offer,” said Keith Tanner, firefighter/paramedic and district vice president for the Longboat Key District of International Association of Firefighters. “We made a number of changes to our proposal to keep from going to impasse, and the town has brought back to us no concessions.”

Just a few months ago, the union asked for 48 more hours of vacation time, a clothing-allowance increase, specialty-pay increase, a health-trust savings plan, an amended pension plan and wage- and cost-of-living increases for years two and three of the contract.

Although the firefighters have eliminated all of their requests, except for salary increases in years two and three of the contract, it’s still likely both sides could head to impasse.

For the fifth meeting in a row, labor attorney Reynolds Allen, of Allen, Norton & Blue, told firefighters the town is in no position to offer them anything that involves monetary contributions by the town.

And, the firefighters continue to argue the town has more than enough money ($4.7 million in reserves) to pay them wage- and cost-of-living increases, which they believe were offered to them as part of their contracts when hired.

If the town and the union cannot agree on a contract, one side or the other would declare an impasse, at which time a special magistrate would review both proposals and make a decision that’s not legally binding, essentially bringing both sides back to the table for negotiations.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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