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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Clearwater Fla--F/F Union and City at odds over pay raises

    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Firefighters union not happy with city's offer
    It says most firefighters will get far less than the 4 to 6.5 percent raises the city has promised. The city says the numbers represent an average.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 11, 2003

    CLEARWATER -- To hear city officials tell it, firefighters stand to receive pay hikes between 4 and 6.5 percent under the latest job contract offer to the union.

    The union, on the other hand, has printed fliers painting the city as stingy, saying the real offer amounts to a meager 1.5 percent, far lower than raises for other city employees. Turns out, the truth lies somewhere in between.

    In fact, more than half the city's rank and file firefighters would receive only a 1.5 percent bonus in the first year of the city's proposed three-year deal. Annual 2 percent raises would follow, and the one-time 1.5 percent bonus would not apply to firefighters' base pay.

    That's a far cry from the higher numbers touted by city officials, a fact not lost on John Lee, president of Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158.

    "To me, that's misleading when you don't tell the public the right facts," he said. "It's crazy."

    But city officials said their numbers were meant to reflect averages, not numbers for individual firefighters.

    "Our intent was not to misrepresent anything," said Joe Roseto, the city's personnel director. "The intent there was to show that if you average things out, it comes out to 4 to 6 percent."

    City Manager Bill Horne said the union has also misled residents.

    "If they were honest about what they were trying to tell the public," he said, "they would have told them the whole story."

    By leaving out a major piece of the proposal -- additional pay increases based on length of service -- the union has portrayed the city's offer as lower than it is, according to Horne.

    Firefighters receive automatic pay hikes totaling 25 percent over their first five years on the job, and another 15 percent boost over the following 12 years. Those "step" raises are in addition to the annual increases.

    For instance, a first-year firefighter stands to earn a 6.5 percent raise this year under the city proposal, followed by 7 percent raises over the following two years. But a veteran like Lee, with 25 years' experience, would get 1.5 percent this year, followed by 2 percent in each of the following two years.

    "Technically, we both could have been a little more accurate," Horne said. "If there is any misunderstanding on the part of the public, I certainly regret it."

    Lee denied the union flier is misleading.

    "We could go over the whole compensation package," he said. "But it would lose the public."

    City officials, who want to abolish the step system, say the union has made its own bed by refusing to retool the pay plan. Earlier in negotiations, the city offered the firefighters an across-the-board 4 percent raise, similar to a deal agreed on by the city's general employees.

    But the union rejected the offer because it did away with the step plan.

    Now firefighters have taken to the streets, picketing city events, including the most recent City Commission meeting. Through the flier, the union has urged residents to lobby city officials and pen letters to the editor.

    Lee said local firefighters, who work a 56-hour work week, as opposed to 48 hours in Tampa and 53 in St. Petersburg, deserve a raise. The city, he said, has budgeted 3 percent raises for firefighters and should pay up.

    "We're still at the table," he said. "But it's not getting anywhere."

    City officials, meanwhile, point to a waiting list of 150 firefighters who want jobs in Clearwater.

    "We don't have a turnover problem," Roseto said. "Very, very seldom does a firefighter leave this city. We also don't have a recruiting problem."

    The next round of bargaining talks is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Human Resources testing room in the downtown Municipal Services Building. The meeting is open to the public.

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.


  2. #2
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Review criticizes firefighter leadership
    The study, prompted by a fatal fire in 2002, calls for major changes at a high cost. Fire officials say the report is flawed and challenge its conclusions.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    Published January 31, 2004

    CLEARWATER - Clearwater's Fire Department lacks training, discipline, cooperation and effective command structure and needs sweeping - and expensive - organizational changes, according to a scathing management review of the department.

    The independent audit, ordered by the city last year and released this week, outlines two options for restructuring, one with a $232,562 annual price tag and the other rising to $619,141. The report follows the fatal high rise fire at Dolphin Cove condominiums that killed two elderly residents and seriously injured three firefighters in June 2002.

    The draft report, which cost $48,420 and took three months, comes on the heels of a critical examination of Dolphin Cove by the United States Fire Administration and a review by the St. Petersburg Times that found firefighters violated department guidelines and failed to follow basic tactical procedures.

    The report, prepared by Tallahassee-based consultant MGT of America, criticized department leadership, particularly for being slow to respond to major fires and for poor management at those scenes. And training in a host of areas, from fire safety to high-rise procedures to large-scale incident management, also was found to be lacking.

    Drills, the report found, are not automatically monitored by a senior fire officer. And top fire administrators should have a background in firefighting, which the current chief does not.

    The report concludes that coastal Clearwater's emergency management functions are potentially ineffective and should be removed from the fire department altogether. "Currently, disaster management planning does not appear to enjoy a high priority in the city of Clearwater," the report says, before suggesting the functions be transferred for supervision by the assistant city manager.

    Meanwhile, the report says the department's staffing level is adequate, a finding union leaders dispute.

    On Friday, Chief Rowland Herald, at odds with the union for months over the direction of the department and nasty contract negotiations, also criticized the report, but for different reasons.

    Herald contests the consultant's claim that the department averaged one fire fatality a month between May and September last year, and that during the same period the city averaged three structure fires a month. City officials said there were three deaths, not five, and the number of fires averaged between 10 and 11 each month.

    Those differences, Herald said, could be enough to substantially change the results of the report.

    "If they're drawing conclusions on errors of fact on how we operate, then perhaps their recommendations will be amended," he said. "I want to make sure that they're drawing conclusions based on the best information available."

    Jim Carino, vice president of Clearwater Firefighters Local No. 1158, scoffed at any conclusion that the department is well-staffed. Saying the department has just one more firefighter now than it did 20 years ago, Carino said increased call volumes have stretched firefighters too thin.

    "It's like making a whole bunch of sandwiches but only having a tablespoon of mayonnaise," he said. "Sooner or later you don't taste the mayonnaise."

    City officials downplayed the recommendations Friday, saying their staff will review the report after it is finalized next month, then decide how to proceed.

    "I don't get shocked anymore about anything," said City Manager Bill Horne.

    Horne, who asked for the review as a tool to help remake the embattled department, said he suffered sticker shock at the cost of the proposed changes. Nonetheless, he wanted an honest look at the organization. Horne said he expects to make more personnel changes, but declined to reveal a timetable or identify individuals.

    "What I'm not going to do is just run out and fire people," he said. "Change occurs over time."

    On Friday, Mayor Brian Aungst said he was not surprised by some of the report's findings and pledged to push for reform, especially with labor-management relations.

    "I think we really need to tighten the reins," he said. "The department's almost running itself backwards. That's absolutely got to be corrected."

    Carino, the union vice president, said he hopes this report, unlike others he has seen in the past, sparks meaningful change.

    "I have true, true concerns," he said. "When's it going to stop? At some point we need to do something."

    - Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com

    [Last modified January 31, 2004, 01:00:44]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default

    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Angry e-mail leads to penalty
    Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback is suspended without pay after sending a message, termed vulgar, to a Web site connected to several dissident city firefighters.
    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    Published March 10, 2004

    CLEARWATER - The city's No. 2 administrator was suspended for a week without pay Tuesday for sending a vulgar e-mail attacking the anonymous writers of a profane Web site that denigrates city officials.

    On Jan. 31, Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback sent an e-mail from home using his personal Hotmail account. In it, he named three city firefighters he suspects of being involved in the site and included graphic and crude descriptions of two.

    Brumback also made a veiled threat to the authors of the Draconian Times, a site representing disaffected firefighters.

    "Amazing how you worthless scumbags think you can hide," wrote Brumback, who finished the e-mail with, "You're going down. Vengeance."

    The e-mail came to light last week, when a lawyer representing Mark Anyon, one of the firefighters Brumback named, sent a copy to the city.

    "Clearly the city, at its highest levels is retaliating against Mr. Anyon because he expressed opinions on matters of public concern," attorney Mark Herdman wrote.

    On Monday, Brumback wrote a letter to City Manager Bill Horne apologizing to the firefighters he named, and to city leaders.

    "As a professional, I should have better managed my anger and frustration in what I read and not responded in the way I did," Brumback wrote.

    A day later, Horne suspended his top deputy, effective March 15. Brumback also will be required to attend sessions with a professional coach to help him manage decisions.

    "We don't stoop to the level of the Draconian Times," Horne said Tuesday. "Just because he's an assistant city manager doesn't mean he gets a break."

    It is the second time Brumback has been disciplined by Horne for sending inappropriate e-mails. In October 2000, he was reprimanded for swapping e-mails at work containing off-color jokes and conversations about a private storage business with another top administrator.

    On Tuesday, city commissioners were universally disappointed in Brumback's behavior and said the suspension, which will cost him $2,150, is appropriate.

    "I was appalled at the language," Commissioner Bill Jonson said. "I think it was inappropriate."

    Mayor Brian Aungst said he, too, has had similar feelings, but as a public official has a duty not to react inappropriately.

    "Garry's better than that," he said. "He knows it. I know it."

    Commissioner Frank Hibbard described Brumback as an important part of the administration who does a "tremendous" job.

    "It's an unfortunate situation," Hibbard said. "It's emotionally charged."

    Brumback's suspension is the latest development in a tangled and bitter standoff between the city and its firefighters.

    Working without a contract since October 2002, union members overwhelmingly rejected a labor deal in February for the second time in seven months. During agonizing negotiations, which resumed last week, firefighters have staged pickets and demonstrations at city-sponsored events.

    But the angry rhetoric has ratcheted up at times to include political theater and personal attacks.

    Last year, Anyon burst into a City Commission meeting holding a giant roll of toilet paper with a hand-lettered sign that said, "City's labor offer to firefighters is not worth the paper it's written on." Weeks earlier, he had marched outside City Hall carrying an effigy of Horne that had a black pumpkin head and red wooden horns.

    On Tuesday, Brumback said he was angry and frustrated by ugly attacks in the Draconian Times on Horne, who is his close friend, and other city employees. He said he sent the e-mail after seeing a female Fire Department employee described as a "cow." The woman is also depicted on the site by an overweight caricature with a "Feed Me" sign.

    The Web site - www.pinellas.com/draconian - contains crude references to Horne and dubs him "Donkey." It also includes innuendo suggesting an affair between a Fire Department administrator and another city employee.

    Anyon has filed a complaint with the city alleging an inappropriate relationship between the fire supervisor and another city employee, according to Horne and Joe Roseto, city personnel director.

    On his own, Anyon conducted an investigation, requesting cell phone and other public records of both employees. He has alleged they conducted an improper relationship on city time.

    Meanwhile, another city employee photographed the supervisor's city vehicle at Sand Key park and submitted it to police as evidence, Horne said.

    In his complaint, Anyon alleged that police ordered the photograph destroyed, according to city officials.

    Horne has asked police to investigate each of Anyon's allegations.

    On Tuesday Brumback said he regretted sending the e-mail.

    "I lost my temper," he said. "I should have known better."

    The Draconian Times has no official ties to the firefighters union, but it is hosted by a Web domain registered to Stan Loveday, a lieutenant with the Fire Department. He could not be reached late Tuesday.

    Through his attorney, Anyon declined to comment this week.

    In addition to Anyon, Brumback named firefighters Craig Cramer and Steve Coward in his e-mail.

    Cramer, who was suspended recently for 11.2 hours, also for sending an inappropriate e-mail, said Brumback's punishment is too light, considering his history.

    "How many times is this guy going to get a break?" Cramer said. "I know if I had done that, I'd have been out the door."

    Brumback conceded Tuesday he has run out of room for mistakes.

    "I don't deserve any more chances," he said. "I'm grateful for the one I have."

    - Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com

    [Last modified March 10, 2004, 02:05:34]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  4. #4
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Exclamation Contract REJECTED>>>AGAIN!

    Dissatisfied firefighters reject contract
    Provisions that switch hours and fire paramedics without certification broke the deal for union workers.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    Published April 24, 2004


    CLEARWATER - For the third time since July, the city's firefighter union has overwhelmingly rejected a proposed three-year contract deal negotiated by union leaders and the city administration.

    The vote was 116-33.

    The failed agreement would have paid firefighters a retroactive 2 percent raise, plus raises of 3 percent this year and 3 percent next year.

    But the deal also included two controversial provisions that rankled union membership, according to John Lee, president of Local 1158.

    The first was a measure that would have allowed administrators to switch firefighters' schedules from their normal 24-hour shifts, 10 days a month, to 40-hour weeks, spread over five days. Administrators said they would have used the provision for special projects, such as training. But union members feared the city could have imposed the switch as punishment, which administrators denied.

    The other measure would have added language allowing administrators to fire paramedics who lose or voluntarily drop their paramedic certifications. Currently, the state certification is included in the job description for paramedics. Those who want a demotion to serve as firefighters must get permission from the fire chief.

    Union leaders say demotion should be an option to combat burnout in the high-stress paramedic job.

    But the city, which is having trouble recruiting paramedics and fears a shortage, says the provision merely transfers existing job description requirements into the contract.

    "We can't just let people demote to non-paramedic class when we need paramedics," said Allen DelPrete, the city's manager for benefits and labor relations.

    City officials are frustrated that another proposed deal approved by union leaders was rejected by rank and file.

    "I'm not quite sure what people want," Mayor Brian Aungst said. "I thought it was a very good contract that we offered."

    Firefighters have worked since October 2002 without a contract. After nearly two years of bitter talks that reached an impasse when a federal mediator failed to bring both sides together, no one is sure how, or when, the standoff will end.

    In February, the union rejected a deal that would have paid retroactive $1,000 bonuses, plus raises of 2 percent this year and 3 percent next year. Also included was a concession to a union demand to reduce the department's 56-hour workweek. Union members voted the deal down 139-2.

    In July, union members overwhelmingly rejected a tentative three-year deal that included annual 2 percent pay increases. The vote was 141-7.

    Lee said a three-year deal reached last year with the police union, which included raises of 3, 4 and 4 percent, highlights the unfairness of the city's offers to the fire union.

    "Give us what the cops got," he said.

    The firefighters union, he said, wants equal treatment.

    "I don't think they're going to take the table scraps," he said. "They've made that pretty clear."

    City officials, though, said they compromised on salary, only to get criticism on the workweek and paramedic certification issues.

    "I don't think the issue this time was money," city human resources director Joe Roseto said. "Unfortunately, it's always something different."

    - Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  5. #5
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default After 32 months....Union Accepts Contract

    St. Petersburg Times

    Union accepts city fire contract
    The resolution ends 32 months of the city and the union failing to come to an agreement. The City Council must still approve it.
    By AARON SHAROCKMAN
    Published May 19, 2005
    -------------------------

    CLEARWATER - Firefighters overwhelmingly accepted a city contract offer Wednesday, signaling a tentative labor peace after nearly three years of intense and often hostile negotiations.

    Firefighters voted 110-19 to accept the contract, which runs through Sept. 30, 2007. They had been without an agreement for 32 months.

    "It's been a long time in coming," said Mayor Frank Hibbard, understating the relief in City Hall.

    The settlement was also overdue for union leaders.

    The city "was ready to get the deal done," president John Lee said. "Our membership was ready to put it to bed, too."

    As part of the compromise, firefighters will receive a one-time bonus of $1,250 or 3 percent of their gross wages for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2004. They'll receive 5 percent annual raises the following three years.

    City officials estimate Clearwater's firefighters will be among Pinellas County's highest paid at the end of the contract. City Council members still must ratify the deal, which they are expected to do today.

    "I committed when I came here to this department that I would fight for what is fair and competitive," said fire Chief Jamie Geer. "This contract definitely puts us back in a fair and competitive position."

    For months, the city and the firefighter's union have wrestled over what "fair" was. And at times, the disagreements became volatile. Firefighters taunted City Manager Bill Horne and elected leaders at public meetings. They protested at the city's biggest events.

    During one protest at City Hall, a firefighter carried an effigy of Horne with a black pumpkin as its head and red wooden horns. A sign hanging from the effigy said, "City Manager? Chief Puppeteer? Or Beelzebub?"

    "I was tested, but you see the thing that always motivates me is what is in the best interest of the community," said Horne, calling the settlement fair. "I will and have remained undeterred no matter how personal it gets."

    An entry-level firefighter now earns $30,515 a year. By the end of the contract, the starting pay will be $35,323. In the county, only Pinellas Park firefighters will earn more, according to city estimates.

    "They're getting a phenomenal deal," Hibbard said. "It puts us in a position to retain and attract whoever we want. It should be reassuring to our citizens to have qualified people that are going to be serving them."

    Lee said both sides came to the middle. Still, he describes the relationship between the rank and file and city administrators as tense.

    Last week, two Clearwater paramedics were fired after it was revealed that they did not respond to a March 911 call. In a statement, union leaders called their dismissals "illegal."

    "I still got two people here fired presently," Lee said Wednesday. "I'm not sure we have labor peace. Yeah, the mood is not real upbeat right at the moment. People are somewhat fearful for their jobs.

    "I've got two guys wondering how they're going to pay their mortgage."

    Geer, fire chief since September, said he hopes Wednesday's labor accord can be a first step toward broader departmental improvements.

    "I'm looking forward to all the new things we can accomplish," Geer said.

    [Last modified May 19, 2005, 00:43:18]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

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