Genesis of a Collective Bargaining Agreement

On June 16, at the Chief Herman W. Brice Administrative Complex on Pike Road, negotiators for County Fire / Rescue and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF local 2928) met across the table to reach agreement on a new contract which will replace the current agreement expiring in September.

As it was a public meeting, advertised on the county meetings calendar, and we at TAB are interested in how public employee union contracts are negotiated, we decided to attend and observe. There has been very little public participation at these meetings in the past, and when we arrived there were no seats anywhere but at the table, but they very graciously found us some. Chief Jerauld told us later that occasionally, fireman who may not agree with the union position will attend the meetings, but public participation is rare. That was disappointing to hear. Much of the budgets of Fire / Rescue, PBSO and other county agencies are driven by personal service costs, mostly established in these multi-year collective bargaining agreements. If we as citizens want to influence the way our governments spend our money, we should be willing to attend these meetings and understand how the contracts are set.

For our part, we were impressed with the professionalism displayed on both sides of the table, and the respect the sides showed to each other. For the first hour and a half or so, the attorney for management walked through the lengthy contract, pointing out changes from previous versions. A lot of the sections at issue related to work rules and compensation arrangements that need practitioner context to fully understand. Three items that we found particularly noteworthy though were:

  • Elimination of employee performance reviews. The implication was that the current system does not achieve anything so it is better to scrap it altogether.
  • A 22% reduction in starting salary for new employees. It was said the it was an attractive enough place to work that high starting salaries are not needed to attract recruits.
  • A 3% employee contribution for insurance. This compares to 10% in the county departments.

On the latter two there was silence from the union side of the table and it is safe to say that did not mean concurrence. Several times, the phrase “unreasonable in the current times” was used to explain why a benefit was being reduced. From our limited perspective (and not having copies of the document we have not seen the new salary grid), it appears that the Fire / Rescue management is making a good faith attempt at bringing their contracts into line with economic conditions, and we find that encouraging.

When the document review was complete, management and the public (us) left the room so the union could confer privately. After about 10 minutes, word was relayed that the meeting was ending and would continue at a later date to be determined. For whatever reason, they needed more time to consider a response.

TAB is planning to follow the progress of this contract and will attend the followup meeting when it occurs. Stay tuned.


One Response to “Genesis of a Collective Bargaining Agreement”
  1. POOR TAXPAYER says:

    Want a fireman call Publix. That’s is were they spend a lot of time.
    The FIre services should be voluntary- EMS should be run by the local hospital.
    Firemen have been gouging the taxpayers for the last 10 years and they are now completely out of control.
    I pay over $1,200 per year EMS and have for many years. If I ever need their services they will charge me an additional $600 to $800 for a short ride to the hospital. I will have paid over $35,000 for that short ride, not counting interest return on my money. That is just far, far, too much. Nurses and doctors save the lives, not the EMS guys, they are not much more than cab drivers.

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