Fire/Rescue Contract Talks Postponed for Another Month

Meet the Negotiating Team

For the county:

Steven Jerauld

Appointed to the top Fire/Rescue position in 2009, Chief Jerauld came up through the ranks. He participated in the last contract negotiations as Deputy Chief of Operations.

Robert L. Norton

Partner in the firm Allen, Norton & Blue, P.A. which calls themselves “The Management Labor & Employment Firm”, Robert Noyce has 38 years of practice in Labor and Employment law. He holds a JD from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a BS from U Florida. Mr. Norton negotiated the previous contract for the county in 2009.

For the IAFF

Michael J. Mayo

President Mayo is a longtime leader of IAFF Local 2928 Fire/Rescue union and has negotiated prior contracts with the county as well as municipalities in the area.

Matthew J Mierzwa

Mr. Mierzwa, Local 2928 Legal Council, is the principal of Mierzwa & Assoc. PA. which represents labor organizations, employee benefit plans and union members in the areas of labor law, benefit law, election law, and individual employment rights throughout the State of Florida. He holds a JD from the University of Miami School of Law and undergraduate degrees in Economics from Harvard and studied industrial and labor relations at Cornell.

So – where do we stand? The current contract expired at the end of September. There have been 6 contract negotiation meetings so far – of which 3 were 1/2 day and 3 were purportedly all day – or at least most of a day. Only a handful of the 47 articles (ie. chapters) have been signed-off, although most have at least been mentioned in the course of the 5 months elapsed time.

Observations: The meetings continue to be stylized. These are not negotiations in the common usage of the word. One side’s attorney (typically management) describes the change sought from the current contract. The other side’s attorney (typically the union) says ‘yes’ or more likely ‘no’. Occasionally there will be a few words of correction or acknowledgement from the 6+ representatives on each side. But more often, not. After several articles are discussed, the meeting breaks up in order that the sides (typically the union) can ‘caucus’. They come back and say ‘no’ and do not offer a tangible counter-proposal. There is no real discussion. There don’t seem to be minutes from prior meetings so topics are re-hashed. The difficult topics – eg pay plan, have not yet been broached.

Having come from only the private sector (with professional/white collar, hourly/blue collar, management/non-management) experience, negotiations on anything usually began with a summation of what was/wasn’t agreed to previously, and significant discussion would occur amongst those with the power to negotiate. Points of agreement would be compiled, points of disagreement would be clear and then, if necessary, the meeting would break up briefly to come to closure on a particular point. Perhaps what we’re observing is typical of all public sector negotations, we really don’t know. It does seem to be very inefficient to rehash the same things multiple times without at least noting what points were at issue.

Perhaps the problem is that the process is being observed. When we asked one of those who was present at the last contract talks in 2009 if this was “typical” of the process, it was suggested that our presence may be having an effect on the meetings. As one of the commissioners has told us on several occasions, government works best when it is being observed. Since this is the first time (to our knowledge) that members of the public have attended a Fire/Rescue union contract negotiation, perhaps the normal “give and take” of the sessions is being inhibited by the fact we are reporting what we observe. Think how things would change if these meetings were televised!

Is inefficiency necessary to good government? When not conducted in the sunlight, would a contract negotiated between a union and management that used to belong to the union have the same outcome? The taxpayer does not sit at this table. Neither does any commissioner, the elected taxpayer’s representatives. All we can do is observe and report.

Joking during the last meeting, when the scheduling of the next round was discussed, the union attorney suggested that it be on Thanksgiving Day because all would be paid extra to do so. What they did decide to do was to schedule the next round of meetings for November 22 and 23rd, the Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, a time when many members of the community are traveling or spending time with family. Maybe they expect to have a clear field on those days.

Fire / Rescue Contract Talks continue on Wednesday

Contract talks that have been ongoing since June for a new three year contract with IAFF local 2928 will continue this week. Three all-day sessions are scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, from 10:00AM to 5:00PM in the Everglades Room at the Chief Herman W. Brice Administrative Complex on Pike Road.

The last meeting was somewhat contentious as reported by Mike in “F-bombs Fly at Fire/Rescue Negotiations“. Given a month has passed, we wonder if the IAFF attorney has been able to cool down.

The meetings are open to the public and TAB plans to attend. Given the time involved, we are asking coalition partners and interested members of the public to help us in monitoring these meetings. Send us a note at if you can devote a few hours to a public service by sitting in on a portion. They are not recorded, nor are detailed minutes kept (to our knowledge). The only way to see what transpires is to physically attend.

To get an idea why these meetings are important, see Andrew Marra’s editorial in the Sunday Post: End the payroll paradox

Here are some resources that may be helpful: