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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Clearwater Fla--Firefighters Reach Contract Aggreement, Ask for Understanding

    Firefighters expect some understanding from city
    Letters to the Editor
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 22, 2003


    Re: Fire union, city reach agreement, story, July 18.

    Money. It's that great object of universal devotion. It provides necessity and luxury. I ask this, who makes enough? None of us do. We feel that way because who knows our job better than those of us who do it?

    I wouldn't dare to say that Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne makes too much. I do not know his job or the responsibilities and sacrifices associated with it. Nor does he mine. I single out Mr. Horne because he is the only one I can speak of, as his salary and benefits are public record. He recently negotiated a tidy increase in his salary and benefits compensation package. Kudos to him. This was accomplished by using a survey of city managers in comparable cities. He will never see me say he was not deserving, as his material supports it. I ask him to allow us to do the same.

    My second focus is to provide a little insight into the job of a firefighter. I feel it necessary because other than Clearwater Commissioner Frank Hibbard and his willingness to spend just a few hours at our training grounds (ask him how that went), no other city official has taken the time to understand the job we do for the community. I'll just scratch the surface.

    We work a 56-hour work week - 16 hours more than most people in the private sector and four to eight hours more than most firefighters in cities of comparable size. While at work we are constantly being challenged in training. We by law have these requirements; literally hundreds of hours annually are put into the classroom and training grounds.

    We revisit the basics and are given training in new techniques. The ever-changing subjects range from AIDS, hepatitis and SARS to cardiac updates to revive a dead or sustain a dying person while transporting to a hospital. Fire training also is a changing dynamic; we encounter hazardous materials, building construction challenges, bioterrorism and the simple unpredictability of fire.

    Please consider this, too: All the decisions we make are made in seconds day or night, not after a debate or commission meeting.

    Another aspect of the profession that goes unnoticed is the time spent from home. I walk out of the door of my home for a period of no less than 24 hours. I challenge anyone: As your day ends, think of the things you will do. You visit family and friends, worship, attend events with your children such as sports, gymnastics and parent-teacher conferences. We miss out on so much of that. So foreign it would be for most to miss a holiday. Think of how you say goodbye to a 4-year-old on Christmas Day because you have a job to do. How do you explain it? You can't. I can't.

    To the citizens of Clearwater: I chose this profession, so pity I am not looking for. Understanding from my employer I am. I work for you, the community, long hours day and night away from home and family. I risk my health, safety and life to help you.

    What I would expect from the city is understanding that the profession is unique, should be treated as such, and to be justly compensated. That, it is not doing.


    -- Michael Aleksa, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1158, Clearwater
    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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    Post Sorry...posted them out of order

    Fire union, city reach agreement
    The tentative three-year pact, which requires a ratification vote, offers annual 2 percent raises for rank and file firefighters.
    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 18, 2003

    CLEARWATER - Almost a year after they first squared off across the bargaining table, the city and its firefighters union have reached a tentative job contract deal.

    The three-year agreement promises annual 2 percent raises for rank and file firefighters, with the first made retroactive to October 2002, when the last contract expired.

    A ratification vote is scheduled early next month.

    But the agreement, which capped months of contentious negotiations, left John Lee, president of Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158, somewhat less than jubilant.

    "The city said it was the best deal we could get," he said. "Now it's time to let our people make their decision."

    After holding out for higher raises and a one-year deal, union leaders relented late Wednesday, accepting the city's three-year offer at the end of a bargaining session that lasted nearly five hours.

    The deal falls short of the union's demand for a 3 percent cost-of-living increase in the first year, followed by 2.5 percent hikes in the following two years. But the agreement does retain the extra raises firefighters and police have traditionally earned based on length of service.

    On Thursday, city officials expressed relief that the end is near.

    "Obviously it's been a long process," said city personnel director Joe Roseto. "We're certainly gratified that we were able to reach an agreement."

    Said Mayor Brian Aungst: "I think everyone's glad it's over. I look forward to just moving on."

    Both sides will head back to the bargaining table later this month to hammer out terms of a separate contract for the department's six district chiefs.

    - 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.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Contract Rejected

    ST. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Firefighters reject three-year pay deal

    The city and its firefighters have been working on a contract since October. The latest proposal wasn't at all what the firefighters wanted.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 5, 2003


    CLEARWATER - City firefighters, working without a contract since October, overwhelmingly rejected on Monday a proposed three-year deal with the city that would have guaranteed annual 2 percent pay raises.

    The vote was 141-7.

    Firefighters are barred from striking by state law, and the defeat will send negotiators back to the bargaining table.

    The results sparked disappointment in City Hall but little surprise among union leadership.

    The vote total reflects an erosion of morale among rank and file, according to John Lee, president of Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158.

    "It appears that they're not very happy," Lee said. "They spoke and they spoke loudly."

    City Manager Bill Horne, meanwhile, said the city will not modify its three-year offer.

    "We always felt like we offered them the best deal, a good deal by all accounts," he said. "It would appear that they still don't agree with us."

    Since talks began last year, the union and the city have squabbled over wages. The union has demanded higher raises than the city is willing to pay. And union negotiators have complained the city wants to lean on unqualified employees to perform higher level tasks as a way to save on overtime.

    Spikes in health insurance costs have also created tension.

    Now, Horne said the city will scrap talks on a multiyear agreement and return to its previous one-year offer, which includes a departmentwide 4 percent pay hike, equal to annual raises given to the city's civilian employees under a three-year contract ratified earlier this year.

    But that proposal eliminates the additional raises firefighters have traditionally received based on length of service.

    Currently, 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 annual cost-of-living increases.

    City officials want to abolish the so-called "step" system but the union has consistently balked at any offer that eliminates the raises.

    "I'm not real sure where we're going to go from here," Lee said Monday.

    Said Mayor Brian Aungst: "Obviously I'm disappointed. But we'll continue to negotiate in good faith and hope we'll come up with something everyone can live with."

    - 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.

  4. #4
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Letters to the Editor

    Here are two (2) letters to the editor posted in the St.Petersburg Times, North Pinellas.

    ___________________________

    Firefighters want to be treated fairly
    Re: Firefighters reject three-year pay deal, story, Aug. 5.

    We as a union spoke and spoke loud. We overwhelmingly voted down a contract proposal from the city of Clearwater. Final tally: 141 no to 7 yes votes.

    In the article, Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne stated, "We always felt like we offered them the best deal, a good deal by all accounts. It would appear that they still don't agree with us."

    Well, Mr. Horne, you are right, we don't agree with you. I do not believe that you offered us your best deal. I have personally been through the 2002-03 fiscal year budget several times. The money for our step increases and the COLA we were asking for are in that budget.

    None of us got into this career to become millionaires, but we do expect to be treated fairly.


    -- Gerard DeVivo, Clearwater
    ________________

    Firefighters bullied, but still proud
    Re: Firefighters reject three-year pay deal, story, Aug. 5.

    Clearwater firefighters and paramedics have for so long been bullied, beaten and bruised by our city, and yet we held together. We have reviewed so many disparaging offers that the city's final offer was reviewed and my brethren said no more and with such volume that the final vote was 141 no to 7 yes.

    We want the opportunity to use the same cities City Manager Bill Horne used to secure his 8.3 percent raise. This he will not do. We have even lowered our requests for compensation to no avail.

    Citizens of this city, please understand, this is not a budgetary issue, as the money was budgeted for a conservative 3 percent raise with our steps left in place. This is not an arbitrary number but based on facts posted on the city's Web site.

    I encourage anyone to look at the site and see the dollars, your dollars, and how they are spent. Then ask this: Is this the caliber of leader you want handling your tax dollars and, more importantly, is this the type of behavior you would expect?

    The city leaders have made it a personal issue. All we ask for is a fair contract for the work we do. My fellow firefighters and paramedics stood tall and strong.

    To the community, understand we may be bullied, beaten and bruised, but we will be here for you stronger than ever as we are united and have just received a strong shot of pride. That is something the city will not take.


    -- Michael Aleksa, Riverview
    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
    Forum Member FireCapt1951retired's Avatar
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    Default

    I can't even remember (after 30 years) the last time our contract negotiations lasted less than 2 1/2 years. Average was 2 1/2 to 3 years before settlement of a 3 year contract. Then we would have to immediately go back into negotiations for the next contract because the last one had already expired. This has been a ploy by city officials for as long as I've been on the job. One Mayor actually said he would break the union monetarily if that's what it took (city always seemed to have really deep pockets around contract time). Our aveage cost for contract negotiations costs around $500,000 to $600,000 and we've had to accept special dues increases for this purpose. The only saving grace here is that we have an ACT 312 arbitration law. Even with that the city still drags its feet as long as they can. Fortunately, we have parity with the Police union but the city does the same with those unions. City leaders know Police and Fire can't strike and use it to their advantage in many many cities. I understand their situation and hope they succeed.
    Last edited by FireLt1951; 08-12-2003 at 08:01 AM.

  6. #6
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default Talks Stall

    ST PETERSBURG TIMES--North Pinellas

    Firefighter talks with city reach an impasse

    Clearwater and the union were wrangling over pay for firefighters who have been without a contract since October.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 9, 2003

    CLEARWATER - Contentious labor talks between the city and its firefighters union have reached a dead-end and the city will declare an impasse, City Manager Bill Horne said Monday.

    Negotiators for the city are drafting a letter to notify Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158 and the Public Employee Relations Commission in Tallahassee.

    Firefighters are barred from striking by state law and both sides may agree to work with a special master who would mediate and make recommendations on a deal. But those suggestions are not binding on city commissioners, who will eventually impose a one-year contract.

    "We're done negotiating," Horne said Monday afternoon. "I'm not going to waste any more time."

    Horne said the move toward an impasse clears the way for the city to hire an independent expert to review the department's leadership, tactics and training in the aftermath of the fatal condominium fire more than a year ago at Dolphin Cove on Island Estates. Horne promised the investigation last year but said he wanted to focus first on a contract settlement.

    News of the city's move surprised John Lee, president of Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158, who said he was disappointed with the impasse instead of an agreement.

    "We'll go down that path," he said. "I really hope that the commissioners are informed before they make a decision."

    Last month, city firefighters, who have been working without a contract since October, overwhelmingly rejected a proposed three-year deal that would have guaranteed annual 2 percent pay raises. The vote was 141-7.

    Since talks began last year, the union and the city have squabbled over pay. The union has demanded higher raises than the city is willing to give, and union negotiators have complained that the city wants to lean on unqualified employees to perform higher level tasks as a way to save on overtime.

    Spikes in health insurance costs have also created tension.

    After failing to reach a multiyear deal, negotiators tried, and failed, to agree on a one-year contract.

    City personnel director Joe Roseto said he will ask city commissioners to do away with additional raises firefighters have traditionally received based on length of service.

    Currently, 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 annual cost-of-living increases.

    City officials want to abolish the so-called "step" system but the union has consistently balked at any offer that eliminates the raises.

    Last year, a review by the St. Petersburg Times found firefighters at the Dolphin Cove fire last June 28 violated department guidelines and failed to follow basic firefighting protocol. Horne promised an independent review, but had held off while contract negotiations dragged on.

    In June 2003, Horne announced that he plans sweeping reform at the fire department, including a management review that will determine whether Chief Rowland Herald and other top officials keep their jobs. But he said he wouldn't act until labor negotiations are complete.

    - 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.

  7. #7
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Update

    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Firefighters' protest over contract gets personal
    An effigy of the city manager has racist overtones, he says. Firefighters deny it.
    By KELLY VIRELLA
    Published October 3, 2003


    CLEARWATER - Clearwater firefighters have been picketing City Hall for the past few months to protest the city's position in talks over a new contract. But Thursday evening they added a new stage prop to heighten the drama.

    Firefighters made an effigy of City Manager Bill Horne that had a black pumpkin as its head and red wooden horns. The effigy was carrying a sign that said "City Manager? Chief Puppeteer? Or Beelzebub?"

    A monkey and a skunk were tied to one arm, a baby wearing a diaper attached to the other.

    "The fact that the pumpkin was black was simply their attempt to make it personal, to make it clear to everyone that they were talking about me," Horne said. "Of course it was inappropriate. Of course the whole caricature was in poor taste."

    Mark Anyon 38, the 14-year veteran firefighter who made the effigy, said Horne misinterpreted the pumpkin. "You know as well as I know, it's got nothing to do with race," Anyon said. "They were selling (the black inflatable pumpkin) at the Wal-Mart."

    Firefighters have been protesting before every City Commission meeting for months, hoping to persuade the city manager to yield to some of the demands they've made for higher pay. They've been working without a contract for a year and will resume negotiations under the direction of a state mediator in the next few weeks.

    But Thursday evening's union protest was particularly emotional because it was the day after the city reached a much-touted three-year tentative agreement with Clearwater police unions, giving them 3 percent raises next year and 4 percent increases the following two years.

    "Do they have something against the firefighters?" said John Lee, president of the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters. "Do they just not like us? What's up?"

    Clearwater police officers who walked past Thursday protest got friendly greetings from firefighters. Lee said he was happy for the police officers.

    Last month the city declared an impasse in its year-long negotiations with the firefighters union. Firefighters were upset because in the city's final contract offer, the city refused to give them step raises, which are automatic pay hikes based on length of service.

    Police officers get step raises, which boost their salaries 25 percent during the first five years of service and smaller raises afterward.

    Firefighters have been getting a similar raise for the past 40 years, Lee said. "If they take our steps away, a lot of us will leave," he said.

    City officials said they took step raises off the table because firefighters were unwilling to sign a multiyear contract, Horne said.

    Horne said the step raises are the city's leverage to get a multiyear contract with firefighters, which makes budgeting and planning easier. "Obviously they didn't want the step raises," he said. "They didn't take the multiyear contract."

    The city's final offer was a one year contract that would have given them a 4 percent pay raise, without step raises. Firefighters voted 141-7 to reject it last month.

    Both sides are now working to select a state arbitrator, who will recommend a compromise. The city commission would still have to approve any such deal.
    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.

  8. #8
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default Protests Continue

    Iaff Members from across the state are joining Clearwater Firefighters to protest their lack of a contract. The most recent protest is scheduled for the City's Jazz Festival.

    City officials were bracing for a large turnout and were making arrangements for a larger "protest zone" for use byt IAFF Local 1158 in the Coachman park. City officials are prepared to expand the zones as necessary.

    Firefighters are angry that City officials would not give them a multi-year contract and that other city employees recently received raises higher than were being offered to the Fire Department.

    Thre was a longer story in the paper today but no link was available on line.

    Meanwhile, on the brink of this upcoming protest, in an unprecedented move the city manager and mayor apparently directed the Fire Chief to dismiss his two top deputies in the midst of this controversy. I have started another thread on this also.
    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.

  9. #9
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Firefighters aired bread-and-butter opinion, not their dirty linen
    Re: Public games not the place to air firefighters' dirty laundry, letter to the editor, Oct. 9.

    A few comments in the above referenced letter insulted me and couldn't be further from the truth. The letter stated that the men and women of the fire department where this gentleman came from stood up for their community, no matter what. Sir, you obviously don't understand the circumstances or what we are about.

    Our differences are with city management, not the fine citizens of this community. We are there for this community 24/7/365. No matter what your emergency is, when you dial 911, we respond to mitigate the situation with the utmost professionalism. And while off duty, we raise money for many different charities here locally, as well as nationwide. I challenge you to go to the Children's Burn Camp, Shriners Hospital or MDA and ask what we do for them. Not to mention the holiday food baskets we collect, assemble and deliver to the unfortunate families of this community.

    Sir, you call what we are doing "dirty laundry." I call it looking out for my family's financial future. We tried, in good faith, to conduct all of our business with the city behind closed doors. Obviously, this didn't work. City officials have stated that they are finished bargaining with us and they are not going to waste any more time.

    Participating in informational walks is the only means we have to get our message heard. Trust me when I say that I would rather be home with my family than participating in an informational walk. But I will continue to walk with my brothers and sisters of my second family so I can secure the financial future of my first family.


    -- G. D. Clearwater Member, IAFF Local 1158
    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.

  10. #10
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post November 11 Letter to the Editor

    Firefighters, stop complaining or find another job
    Letters to the Editor
    Published November 11, 2003

    Enough is enough. Now the firefighters have their wives writing letters to the editor to complain about contract negotiations in Clearwater. This is a free economy. Get another job! It's that simple! Get another job!

    If the benefits, pay, working hours, camaraderie and environment aren't good enough for you, get another job, just like the rest of us have to do - if you can find another job. Wake up, people! There are millions of unemployed workers who would love to have an income, much less be able to complain about getting only a 2 percent raise. Face it, life is not always fair. If your job isn't, get another job!

    This hero worship since 9/11 has started to get out of hand. You sign up for this job, and you know up front what the pay is, what the risks are and you still do it, I am sure for the satisfaction of it to some degree, just like police officers.

    So, stop the complaining and be thankful you have a job and one you like. This is a bad time for individuals, businesses, cities and states. Grow up!

    And please don't expect us to feel sorry for you because you could always opt to go into teaching. Or how about politics? We're always looking for new city managers.


    -- Robert Prescott, Clearwater
    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.

  11. #11
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default November 19 letters to the editor

    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas--Letters to the editor

    Firefighters already knew the risks, and the pay for the job
    Letters to the Editor
    Published November 19, 2003

    I have been reading articles, editorials and letters about the pay of firefighters in Clearwater. Both sides are well within their rights in expressing their views. However, it seems the firefighters that are sending in letters still just do not get it. It is their job to perform the duties and work the hours. This is what they knew about when they took the job. They took this job knowing the pay rate.

    The job requires risking life? No debate there, but is that fact hidden from the potential firefighter when he applies for the position?

    They have to work strange hours? Well, big deal, so do I and on a moment's notice at night when I get a call at my home. But it's my job. I knew about it and accept it. Don't firefighters know their hours before accepting employment?

    Now that we have established the duties, hours and pay rate of the firefighter was known at the time of accepting employment, do they have the right to ask for more money? Of course they do, just like teachers, nurses, paramedics, waiters and waitresses, other government workers - in fact, all workers.

    And you know what? All of us, including firefighters, have the right to quit if our demands and requests are not met. In short, you firefighters are doing your jobs just like the rest of us do our jobs. You want a raise? Ask for it. You don't like the answer you get? Then simply do what you have to do, but don't try and lay a guilt trip on the rest of us that are unemployed or are as underpaid as you think you are.


    -- Kerry Brannen, Tarpon Springs

    ____________
    Firefighters aren't asking too much
    Re: Firefighters, stop complaining or find another job, letter by Robert Prescott, Nov. 11.

    I am writing to you in disgust as I read yet another letter bashing the hard-working firefighters of our county. As a citizen who remembers quite well the drama and horror of 9/11, I find myself both shocked and outraged that a person can even find the courage to utter such an outlandish response to the latest developments in the Clearwater Fire Department's contract negotiations.

    Granted, some of the negotiations are driven by the desire for a salary increase, but shouldn't these men and women who work 24 hours a day to protect our homes as well as our loved ones be entitled to an annual salary increase?

    Every day the firefighters are out there risking their lives in deadly heat and smoke to ensure our safety as well as the safety of others.

    Undoubtedly, there is a great sense of satisfaction that comes along with their jobs. Who wouldn't be proud to know that they saved a life or rescued a family or prevented a devastating fire from becoming a tragedy?

    I am certain that if the gentleman who wrote such ludicrous words had 24 hours to stand in their shoes and see all that goes on, he would have a different understanding of Clearwater's demands.

    What about when things go wrong? These men and women have to carry around with them, sometimes for a lifetime, the horror at what they have witnessed. Things that, God willing, people like Mr. Prescott and I will never have to see. I am sure when Mr. Prescott closes his eyes at night, he is able to sleep well knowing that he told everyone just what the firefighters really need to do.

    Next time, Mr. Prescott, think of what you should be doing to help make one-quarter of the difference in one person's life that these brave men and women make in thousands of people's a year.


    -- Sarah Kerr, New Port Richey
    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.

  12. #12
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Letter to the Editor

    St. Petersburg Times--Letters to the Editor


    Clearwater firefighters deserve fair pay increase
    Re: The Clearwater firefighters.

    An esteemed state senator decides to retire after years and years of service to the state. He's set for life, huh? A pension beyond belief, with health care and God knows what else these "servants" get for the rest of their days. Speaking engagements alone will bring in more money than you will ever see. And, oh, these folks were able to give themselves pay raises while in office. What a life!

    Did you see that football game last weekend? Yeah, I know, we lost. But did you see our star back? He was unstoppable. Why, the game wouldn't have even been close if he wasn't in there. I understand that he makes about $5-million a season . . . worth every dime, wouldn't you say?

    Hey, the latest movie starring our favorite movie star is a real stinker, ya think? Do you know that he is guaranteed a cool $20-million for his films, good or bad? Is this a great country or what? Trust me, he'll earn every dollar with his next release and you'll love it.

    I just read that firefighters saved the lives of a local family yesterday.

    I am not against the concept of making as much money as you can in this life, nor am I going to tell you that if someone wants to pay you an incredible amount of moolah for your services, you should not take it. Politics, sports and entertainment are what they are, and that will never, ever change. They do seem to take on a higher importance in our lives than some of the more "mundane" goings-on . . . like saving lives or risking yours.

    I truly believe that in a perfect world athletes et al. would make a comfortable living while true public servants would be handsomely rewarded. I'm only dreaming.

    In that perfect world, every single citizen would be on the steps of City Hall, for however long it took, to demand that this controversy (with the Clearwater firefighters) be resolved, with a fair increase to our true public servants and put a stop to all this posturing.

    Every one of us needs these servants/services well ahead of anything - and I mean anything - else. This is something that can be changed but, hey, it's late and it's just about kickoff time.


    -- Michael DePrisco, Clearwater
    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.

  13. #13
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

    Battle between city, firefighters may end
    With no guarantees and latent contention, negotiators have pulled together a three-year salary package.
    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    Published December 7, 2003

    CLEARWATER - After a bitter 18-month standoff between City Hall and its firefighters union, half the battle may finally be over.

    Last week, negotiators hammered out a tentative three-year salary deal that would pay each firefighter a retroactive $1,000 bonus for last year, plus raises of 2 percent this year and 3 percent next year. The bonus covers the time firefighters worked without a contract.

    The agreement still must be ratified by the union and city commissioners. Left unsettled are a handful of other issues including a contentious dispute about the number of hours firefighters work each week.

    But city officials hailed the agreement as progress, however incremental.

    "I think both sides are slowly moving to the middle," City Commissioner Frank Hibbard said Friday.

    Said Commissioner Hoyt Hamilton: "I believe I see light at the end of the tunnel."

    But John Lee, president of Clearwater Firefighters Local No. 1158, said the agreement is likely to create controversy among firefighters, who would rather have a retroactive raise in the first year of the contract, instead of the one-time bonus. Another new provision requiring paramedics to remain certified throughout their careers is also likely to be criticized, according to Lee.

    City officials tout their plan to pay extra for certified paramedics, whether or not they act in that capacity full-time.

    Lee said he could not predict the union's response.

    "I'm just going to take it to the membership, and let 'em speak their peace," he said Thursday. "That's all I can do."

    Lee said he will hold meetings to explain the proposal to union members, but suggested he is disappointed with the pay deal.

    "Our stuff shows that we deserve more money than what has actually been offered to us," he said.

    On Friday, City Commissioner Whitney Gray said Lee's lukewarm comments suggest he doesn't support the agreement he helped negotiate.

    "I think it's his way of sabotaging it," she said. "This is the kind of playing around that has dragged this thing out for 18 months."

    Firefighters have been working more than a year without a contract as union leaders have pushed for higher wages during agonizing talks. In August, union members overwhelmingly rejected a tentative three-year deal with annual pay increases of 2 percent. The vote was 141 against, only 7 in favor of the plan.

    The new agreement came after two days with a special master, charged with making recommendations by Dec. 19 on how to resolve issues that remain on the bargaining table.

    If both sides can't agree, city commissioners will impose a one-year contract after a hearing on Jan. 14 to settle the impasse.

    The new salary proposal maintains the department's "step" plan, which guarantees firefighters automatic pay hikes totaling 25 percent over their first five years and another 15 percent boost over their following 12 years.

    City officials had pushed to eliminate the plan over loud and angry objections from the union.

    On Friday, City Commissioner Bill Jonson applauded the compromise.

    "I'm thrilled," he said, adding later, "It shouldn't have been that tough."

    With salary issues largely out of the way, the major battle appears to be about time on the job.

    The union wants to reduce its work week from 56 hours to 52 hours over the next three years. But the city negotiators say it would be too expensive to hire the extra firefighters necessary to do that.

    With the impasse hearing a month away, pressure is mounting to reach a common ground.

    If the union doesn't ratify the contract imposed by the commission, the raises proposed in the tentative salary agreement would disappear.

    Late last month, Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Firefighters, accused the city of failing to negotiate in good faith. In a letter dated Nov. 20, he suggested Clearwater is trying to bust the fire union.

    "But if the City believes that Local 1158 can be busted," Schaitberger wrote, "it is deeply mistaken."

    This week, City Manager Bill Horne denied the claim and downplayed the letter, saying it is not uncommon for national union representatives to advocate on behalf of local memberships during protracted negotiations.

    "It's no big deal," Horne said.

    He added that the city's labor attorney has suggested responding to the letter, but went on to say that the city has not decided on precise language.

    On Friday, Mayor Brian Aungst said he would like to finish contract talks and move on.

    "I think everyone realizes that no one wins if we go to impasse," he said. "I'm hoping it doesn't get to that point."

    - 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.

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