Fire / Rescue Contract Talks Continue

The July meeting of the negotiating teams for the 2012 IAFF contract did not move the ball very much, at least as far as we could see. As the meeting wrapped up, Chief Jerauld proposed holding additional sessions prior to the scheduled one on August 17 as there is a lot to do and little time to complete it.

More observers for the public attended this session, including TAB members, a reporter for the Palm Beach Post, and a representative of the Office of Inspector General. As this was anticipated, the county moved the meeting to a larger conference room at the Pike Road Headquarters.

The meeting consisted of much discussion of several draft agreements that had been prepared, and numerous “side agreements”, referenced by page number or paragraph position. None of the observers had copies of the referenced documents so it was difficult to follow. (We have asked for copies of all the materials prior to the next meeting). Much of the 3 hours were interrupted by “caucus time” when all the participants left the room for each side to confer among themselves – one of them 45 minutes in length. When we asked, it was explained that the referenced “side agreements” were contract modifications that were negotiated since the last contract was signed. None of these (or the current contract proposals) are available on the county website, but they are public documents which we will seek.

The major proposal by the county – reducing starting salary for new employees by 22%, was not discussed. It is our understanding that a counter-offer by the IAFF consists of an agreement for no raises for the next three years (subject to renegotiation if economic conditions improve), in return for retaining the existing starting salary of about $50K.

As described in Andrew Marra’s editorial “Cut these Alarming Salaries“, the problem is the existing salaries, which are approximately 50% higher than the national average and unaffordable in the long run without significant tax hikes or reduction in staff. Cutting the starting salaries would help, as would eliminating raises. If both were done, it may at some point bring Fire / Rescue Compensation down to earth. It would take a long time to do so however. There is nothing that we have heard in these current negotiations that will solve the problem near term, and choosing between starting salaries and wage freezes is a false choice. Both are needed, at a minimum.

We will continue to report on these negotiations as they progress.

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