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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 7 years ago

Firefighter contract negotiations halted

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The town and its firefighters cannot agree on a new three-year contract and are leaving it up to a special magistrate to help settle their differences.

In February, town labor attorney Reynolds Allen, of Allen, Norton & Blue, declared an impasse on the negotiations.

Wrote Allen in a letter dated Feb. 9: “The town manager’s negotiating team rejects the proposal made (by the fire union) and has nothing further to propose. Consequently, in light of the fact that the (union) has advised it is unwilling to accept any of our three proposals, the town manager declares impasse.”

But Keith Tanner, a firefighter/paramedic and vice president for the Longboat Key District of International Association of Firefighters, is still trying to negotiate with the town even though both sides are at a standstill.

“I have asked for another meeting, because we have another offer we want to give the town,” Tanner said. “I’m electing to negotiate through an impasse before we get the date set for a special magistrate to save both time and money.”

But another meeting doesn’t appear likely.

Allen told The Longboat Observer he has not received any new offer in writing and will only consider another negotiation session if the offer is deemed “meaningful enough to discuss.”

The town rejected the union’s last revised three-year contract and does not wish to hold any meetings that will cost the town money.

The firefighters have rejected three offers from the town that include a variety of options, including no wage increases in year one of a contract and wage increase considerations in years two and three if other town employees receive raises as well.

Another option the firefighters had was to ratify a one-year status quo contract.

But the contracts by the town included caveats that guaranteed the town would not reduce the pay scale and the town would not guarantee wages would not be decreased if the firefighters wanted to reopen wage negotiations in year two of a new contract.

Because impasse has been declared, a special magistrate is being called upon to review proposals presented by both sides and make a decision that’s not legally binding.

Although Allen notes in his letter to Tanner that the town manager is willing to waive a special magistrate hearing and take the impasse items directly to the Town Commission for a final resolution, Tanner said the union prefers to get a ruling from a special magistrate first.

If neither the town nor the firefighters agrees to the magistrate’s ruling, the Town Commission can be called upon to make a decision on contract issues that need to be resolved.

Contact Kurt Schulteis at [email protected].

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