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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 8 years ago

Firefighters and town can't agree on contract

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

It appears the Longboat Key Fire Rescue union and the town of Longboat Key are heading to impasse, because neither side can agree on a new three-year contract.

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

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

The meeting, held Wednesday, Nov. 4, started off more amicably, when Allen told the four firefighters in attendance the town was willing to convert the firefighter work schedule from a 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule to a 48 hours on, 96 hours off schedule.

Firefighter Jeff Bullock said the town would save money with the new schedule of 48 hours on, 96 hours off, because firefighters would would be happier after spending more time at home, which has been proven to cut sick-day usage.

Longboat Key Fire Rescue
Chief Rich Dickerson also explained that the schedule, which is popular in California, has been proven to boost firefighter morale.

Allen agreed to take the new schedule to the Town Commission for their review as long as it didn’t cost the town any money.

But when the firefighters presented an addendum to the town’s proposal, which 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, Allen pulled the new work schedule proposal off the table and ended the meeting.

Allen told the firefighters the town will come back to the firefighters with a final proposal that will include either a one-year contract or a three-year contract.

“If you don’t accept either proposal, we will head to impasse,” Allen said.

And Keith Tanner, a firefighter-paramedic and district vice president for the Longboat Key District of International Association of Firefighters, said the firefighters would head to impasse if the town wouldn’t agree to their addendum.

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.

The fire department’s current contract expired May 31, which means the department continues to operate on the status quo on a month-to-month basis until a new contract is reached.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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