Fire/Rescue Contract Negotiations – Back to the BCC

TAB members have been attending these, mostly once/monthly, negotiations since mid-June.   It was clear that little or no progress had been made in six months, and we of  TAB wondered how many more billable hours  would be spent for attorneys from both sides, sans resolution to anything.

Well – apparently, the County management team’s patience has been exhausted.  The County expected the Union to appear with a wage proposal, or at least an analysis of the County’s 22% across the board cut for new employees.  The Union said ‘No – the person who was doing the analysis had surgery and so we don’t have a response for you”.  County asked “Any movement on any of the proposals made by the County’?  “No” to that as well.  In fact, the Union said that it was very difficult to respond to 45 changes that the County wanted to make to the contract and although there has been probably some resolutions to 5-10 of these 45, that there are still 35 issues to work out.  The County attorney said he wasn’t going to get into exactly how many issues there were or remain.

County then went through 2 minor (one to two word changes) in articles 20 and 28.  County called them clarifications.  Union said these were changes, not clarifications.

Robert Norton (attorney for the county) then probed if there could be any meetings in January.  Matthew Mierzwa (union attorney) gave reasons why he was unavailable.  Mr. Norton said that “It’s clear that no progress is going to be made today”  and went on to say that he doesn’t recall any time in his career, making so little progress on a contract, and if there was a time, he doesn’t remember it.  While he wasn’t quite ready to call an “impasse”, he said that it was time to go back to the elected officials (Board of County Commissioners), to get guidance from them.  Depending on their decision, he’ll either work to get new bargaining dates or do whatever the next step is.

As a citizen and tax payer, watching twelve men waste their own (and our) time for six months, to achieve nothing, highlights why trust in government is at an all time low.

Note: the current contract expired in September.


One Response to “Fire/Rescue Contract Negotiations – Back to the BCC”
  1. Joe says:


    The Executive Board, which includes the Principle Officers of The Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County are committed to bringing you the best possible contract in the coming weeks (or months). We understand the importance of providing the best level of emergency medical and fire service in the most efficient manner possible. We understand if the department is going to realize a shortfall in revenues that we must be willing to work with them to continue to provide the best possible service to our residents. We have been doing this. Unfortunately, we believe the administration has not been forthcoming at the negotiating table this time.

    Trust but Verify ~ Ronald Reagan
    For the last 10 months we have been engaged in contract talks with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Administration. We sat down in good faith for what was thought to be a quick negotiation session of monetary give-backs. Instead, our administration, who was crying poor had over 40 non-monetary contract articles open to negotiate.

    The $35 Million Campaign
    So, the $35 million shortfall campaign by our administration began. Next, the administration began the Friday videos that nobody was watching. Because of this, we all got the management memo that said, that it was mandatory to watch the Chief Jerauld and Deputy Chief Beesley Friday Videos. With each video came another message of how broke we are. Then we actually had an officers’ forum to inform them that we’re $35 million short. This came fully equipped with all the fast talk, fancy graphs, and charts. Then, as if the SEAR Committee didn’t give enough data 2 years ago… the Administration assembled another committee to cut our benefits further. This committee was formed while negotiations were ongoing resulting in ever-changing positions. Again we say… TRUST BUT VERIFY.

    Mixed Signal
    Somehow the $35 million shortfall message continues to be distorted. Every vacancy in our Administration has been filled from our Frontlines over and over again. We have all seen the purchases:
    • NEW IT equipment and Consultants
    • New Vehicles for Administration
    • New LIFEPAK monitors
    • MUM dispatch module
    • Tele-Staff
    • New Rescues and Engines
    • PowerDMS Email (did Outlook break?)
    • Remodels and rebuilt stations
    • Take-home vehicles
    • Training: From 1984 until 2009, we trained at the station level; both South Tech and the college provided courses and the department granted tuition reimbursement. We had a few people in Training for recruit classes we were hiring. So if we are broke, why do we continue to take 7+ units a day out of service and have them drive (fuel cost) 30 miles to training? Why are we hiring 30 part-time instructors?
    • Initiation of CQI division: A division that checks reports and does Research and Development with frontline firefighters, paramedics, and commanders that could be utilized on the frontlines protecting lives.

    This has been the same story for 3 years. It is unfortunate that our Administration has now taken to the media to try to work us over, all the while sticking to the $35 million shortfall when they themselves openly say we are not $35 million short. This willingness to misguide us, our members, the commission, and the public is BOLD.
    The Money
    We do not believe we are $35 million short. In our first budget committee meeting, the Administration was invited. They began their presentation with the statement, “we have found $8 million.” This makes the shortfall $27 million. Then Administration was anticipating (along with us) a 19% FRS contribution. Instead, it came in at 13.8%. This saved at least $4.5 million. This brought the shortfall to $22.5 million. Then we agreed to concede over 100 vacancies which equated another $10 million. This brought the shortfall to $12.5 million. We also said we would work with them to eliminate $6 million in overtime. So we are surely not still $35 million short. A figure of around $6 million would probably be more accurate. Somewhere the Chief decided we are not doing our fair share. Running 100 frontline firefighter/paramedics short is just not enough for him, although our Administration building is not running short at all.

    Willingness to Bargain
    We have heard that members are being told that we have been unwilling to bargain, but by all accounts nothing could be further from the truth. Even though we are continually misled, misinformed and sometimes feel lied to; we have taken the high road. During the 10 months of negotiations we have offered numerous concessions amounting to tens of millions of dollars in an effort to compromise with our Administration, while keeping our service level as high as possible.

    OVERTIME on the rise because of the Chief
    As we are all aware, the department has promoted, frozen, cut or reassigned a number of personnel. Each of these decisions comes with a cost.
    • Reassignments: Each time frontline personnel are reassigned to Administration, the Chief has made a conscious decision to run short. This decision means increasing the chance of a shortage which will cause overtime.
    • Frozen Positions: Each time that a Frontline position (with any rank assigned to it) is frozen by the Chief, there is an increased chance that his decision will cause an increase in overtime. Currently, the Chief has frozen 3 District Chief positions and 1 District Captain position with his intention to do a second. The Chiefs’ decision to freeze these command positions was exactly like saying “I want to pay overtime for these positions every day.” For some reason the Chief wants to keep blaming our members on the frontlines for these poor monetary decisions.
    • Promotions out of Frontlines: Any time the Chief makes a promotion while we are running short, overtime will result. When the Chief promotes a frontline commander to Headquarters, the department will surely see an increase in overtime.
    • Cut: Any cut in positions on the frontlines (while already running over 100 positions short) will undoubtedly result in overtime and further injury to an already beat-up firefighting and paramedic staff.

    There is a cost to making poor decisions and running short. The Chiefs have begun taking paramedics off of trucks in a haphazard fashion based on attendance. This results in poor morale, increased workers comp claims and units being less available in their own zones. It appears all reductions in personnel have been and will be coming solely from the frontline firefighters, paramedics and command staff who respond to 911 calls. We would call on all capable personnel to be returned to the frontlines before the first cut in staffing jeopardizes the life of a citizen we are sworn to protect.

    Despite these trying times, we call on you, our Firefighters and Paramedics, to remain committed to providing the highest level of service possible. Please understand, your Union officers remain committed and are working hard on your behalf.

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