City, Firefighters Can't Agree On Wages
KARLAYNE R. PARKER kparker@tampatrib.com
Published: Oct 4, 2003




UNION OFFICIALS WANT TO PROTECT SENIORITY

PLANT CITY - The city's 2003-04 fiscal year began Wednesday, and Plant City firefighters are working without a new contract.

The union and city officials are at odds over one issue: pay.

The union wants to ensure anyone who gets a pay raise or a promotion isn't paid more than another firefighter with the same rank but more experience, said Sanders Bush, director of human resources for Plant City.

The union offered a plan that would give firefighters with more seniority a pay raise to keep them ahead of those with less experience.

City officials didn't approve, Bush said.

Instead, the city wants to give the firefighters with less experience, but who have gotten a promotion, less money so as not to surpass a senior firefighter in pay.

Bush said union representatives, including firefighter and union President David Jackson and paid negotiator David Kinsey, didn't agree.

``It's just one item, and it seems the kind of issue that could be resolved, but I'm not sure exactly how,'' Bush said. ``It's something we can talk about.''

No new talks have been scheduled, Bush said.

So far, the city has offered a 7.6 percent increase to the firefighters, which includes a 5.1 percent pay adjustment increase recommended by a salary study done by the city this year. The study, which compared Plant City salaries to those offered by other governments in the area, showed that many Plant City employees are underpaid.

The increase for the firefighters also includes an additional 2.5 percent general increase, which all city employees are eligible for.

Firefighters have had other proposals shot down during negotiations.

The city would not approve adding short pants as an acceptable uniform during warm weather; allowing vacation pay to be counted as straight time; and a pay step plan that would have built-in raises in addition to annual raises all other city employees receive.

The city and the union did come to terms on one issue: giving a firefighter an 8 percent increase when working out of classification.

Firefighters are sometimes asked to work out of classification when there aren't enough firefighters on a particular day. Union officials wanted the pay increase to take effect immediately during that shift.

City officials instead agreed that the firefighter would have to work 12 hours in the higher rank before receiving an 8 percent increase in pay. That's 3 percent more than in the current contract.

When the two sides reach an agreement, here is how the pay increases will change:

The pay range for a firefighter-emergency technician will go from $25,445 - $38,960 to $26,609 - $39,913.

The pay scale for a fire inspector will go from $28,119 - $43,033 to $28,738 - $43,107.

The union represents 28 firefighters.