Talks fizzle over Orange pay scale
By Mark Schlueb | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted April 1, 2003
Labor negotiations with Orange County firefighters have broken down over pay and other issues, six months after a new contract should have been in place.
County administrators declared an impasse on Monday, three weeks after the 765-member fire union rejected their contract offer by a 3-to-1 margin. The county had offered salary and benefits increases officials said would cost taxpayers about $16 million during the next three years.
There's no danger of a strike -- state law prohibits firefighters and other public employees from walking out. Instead, representatives of the union and the county will make their cases to an independent third party, who in turn will make nonbinding recommendations to the County Commission.
In the meantime, firefighters will work under the terms of a contract that should have expired in September.
"There are a lot of things that are frustrating about it, and it goes beyond the contract," said Jerry Polk, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2057.
The county offered its firefighters a 4 percent raise the first year.
"We thought the contract was fair," said Kevin Shaughnessy, a private labor lawyer handling negotiations for the county. "It was competitive on wages."
But many firefighters have a bigger problem with the way they're paid -- one that would likely cost millions to correct.
Rookie Orange County firefighters earn about as much as rookies who work for the Orlando Fire Department. The top end of the salary range is about the same for both departments, too.
The problem, county firefighters say, is how long it takes them to reach the top end. Orlando firefighters get incremental increases each year until they reach the maximum salary after 10 years. Orange firefighters, however, get smaller increases each year. It takes them 23 years to reach that same maximum salary.
The result isn't encouraging, said firefighter Amy Morton.
Morton, who works at Station 72 in Conway, has 10 years on the job and earns $38,000 a year. An Orlando firefighter with 10 years on the job would make about $53,000 a year.
"We feel like our management is telling us that experience means nothing," Morton said.
County firefighters routinely apply for jobs with the Orlando Fire Department, but Orlando union officials couldn't recall a career switch in the other direction.
In a letter, Polk urged Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty to take some "baby steps" to correct the pay disparity and other problems.
Some firefighters also complain that administrators want to take away their control of station assignments. Firefighters with seniority now have some say over transfers.
Last week, the County Commission had a closed-door meeting to discuss how to respond to the union's rejection of the contract -- one of the few reasons that elected officials may meet in private under state law.
On Monday, county officials sent a letter to the state declaring an impasse.
That triggers a process that could take as long as three months.
The final decision will be left to the county commissioners.
Mark Schlueb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5417.
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04-10-2003, 12:17 PM #1
Orange County Fla--Firefighters and County at Impasse over Salary09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
02-22-2008, 04:34 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2007
Well it is 2008 and we have gone before a Special Master and he ruled in favor(not binding though) of Local 2057. We have been offered a step plan with 14 steps but no COLA. We are still waiting to here if the Commisioners agree with the contract and then we are supposed to vote. Contract isn't perfect but it is definitely a step in the right direction. If we vote this one in, we go back to renegotiate in a couple of months and then we will try to work on the COLA. It is like pulling teeth!! I hate politics. We are starting to get a little concerned because the County was supposed to get back to us last week and still we have heard nada. Chief Plaugher is always throwing the "World Class Fire Department" slogan around. Well I'll tell you, he can buy all of the fancy equipment that he wants to, but until he leaves we will be nothing more than a training academy and stepping stone for better paying Fire Departments. It is sad too, because we are losing outstanding Firefighters. We have been mismanaged into the ground. Keep an eye out for when we go county wide transport, our Medics will be ripping those patches off of their uniforms faster than you can blink your eyes. Lets hope things change FAST. Stay safe.
02-22-2008, 04:44 PM #3
Egads! 14 steps to FF max salary?
Ours is done in 3 steps!"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
02-22-2008, 07:36 PM #4
Between Amendment 1 (thank you Charlie Crist! ) and Rural/Metro possibly leaving, OCFRD may want to look into a 3rd service public EMS dept.
It seems to me, that most County Fire Depts seem to be stepping stones due to low pay, and benes. Couple that with the transport, and not many wanna be there.AJ, MICP, FireMedic
This message has been made longer, in part from a grant from the You Are a Freaking Moron Foundation.
02-22-2008, 11:55 PM #5
02-23-2008, 12:32 AM #6
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