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    Default Palm Beach County Fire and Council Near Agreement

    Town, union propose contract
    Councilmen, fire-rescue personnel are expected to OK tentative deal, ending years of dispute over pay plan, disciplinary procedures.

    By Margie Kacoha, Daily News Staff Writer

    Sunday, July 03, 2005

    After almost four years of often contentious contract negotiations, the town and its Fire-Rescue Department have reached a tentative contract.

    Copies of the 60-page document for rank-and-file and supervisory personnel have been posted at the town's three fire stations. The 68 members of the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County, Local 2928, will vote on the proposed agreement Wednesday and Thursday. If approved, the contract will go to the Town Council for its review and expected approval on July 12. It would go into effect immediately and run through Sept. 30, 2008.

    "It's not final yet, but things are looking very good," said Town Council President Bill Brooks.

    Both sides have agreed to a pay plan that will essentially give fire-rescue personnel a 4 percent hike each year instead of merit raises. Those raises would continue until employees reach the top of their pay range. The current range for firefighter/paramedics is $46,199 to $68,405. Lieutenants can make up to $83,599. Fire-rescue workers also will receive annual cost-of-living adjustments, as do other town employees.

    The last unresolved contract issue was language relating to disciplinary action.

    The union wanted "just cause" as the standard for the discipline and discharge of fire-rescue personnel, with an outside arbitrator making the final determination in any dispute. The town wanted disciplinary actions based on reasons that were not "arbitrary and capricious."

    In a compromise, both sides agreed to the "just cause" standard with the Town Council acting as the arbiter.

    Fire-rescue personnel voted to join the union in September 2001. A series of failed negotiations led to an impasse hearing before the Town Council in October 2003. During that heated session, fire-rescue employees packed the council chambers. Many wore T-shirts stating Palm Beach was the "Best Place to Live . . . Worst Place to Work." The council rejected most of the Fire-Rescue demands.

    The years of contention led to two hearings before impartial special masters. With a second impasse hearing before the Town Council pending, and the town facing a list of unfair labor practice charges leveled by the union, those developments will be wiped away if both sides approve the proposed contract.

    The shift from slug fest to hug fest occurred, in large part, because of Fire-Rescue Chief Edward Moran, according to those who molded the proposed agreement. Moran took over the department in January, coming to Palm Beach from Hollywood with 30 years of fire-rescue service behind him.

    Town Manager Peter Elwell, Human Resources Director William Crouse and Moran represented the town in negotiations; Lt. Wayne Lindros and Firefighter/Paramedic Liz Nowacki represented department personnel.

    "We worked together to resolve the final contractual issues in a true spirit of cooperation," Elwell said. "I am particularly gratified that we were able to positively resolve these issues by direct communication, employee to employee.

    "This agreement reflects the atmosphere of mutual respect and the enthusiasm and optimism for the future that Chief Moran has been able to establish within the Fire-Rescue Department during his early months as chief."

    Nowacki agreed the change in tone was made possible, in large part, because of Moran.

    "It took someone from the outside," Nowacki said of Moran. "He's fantastic. The town, through Moran's eyes, was able to see us in a different light. The best service [and] the best employees; we all wanted the same thing. He just helped us put it all together. It was quite simple, in the end, to come to an agreement."

    Lindros said the new chief and a forced cooling-off period in negotiations imposed by last season's hurricanes gave everyone a fresh start. The meetings, he said, were pleasant, even fun.

    "We were laughing," he said. "We were actually joking around."

    Moran deflected credit back to his colleagues and his staff.

    "Everybody wanted to resolve this," he said. "It was a collective effort. We could [no longer] let issues become personal. We had to be realistic, communicate, compromise and negotiate."
    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
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    Palm Beach Fire-Rescue approves contract by wide margin


    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Palm Beach Fire-Rescue personnel overwhelmingly approved a proposed contract between its union and the town.

    Firefighter/Paramedic Liz Nowacki, union representative for the rank-and-file personnel, hand delivered a notice of the ratification vote this morning to Town Manager Peter Elwell.

    According to Nowacki, 51 of 67 eligible to vote cast their ballots Wednesday and Thursday nights, with 49 voting to accept the contract. All 12 supervisors who voted affirmed the collective bargaining agreement. Out of the 39 rank-and-file personnel who voted, 37 voted in approval.

    "We were happy so many did come out and vote," Nowacki said.

    The contract will go before the Town Council Tuesday. If approved as expected, it will take effect immediately and run through Sept. 30, 2008.

    The accord between the town and the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County, Local 2928, emerged after almost four years of contentious negotiations, mediation, an explosive impasse hearing before the Town Council and charges of unfair labor practices against the town.

    The contract calls for a pay plan that essentially gives fire-rescue personnel a 4 percent hike each year instead of merit raises. The contract also includes a compromise between the two sides on disciplinary action.

    The town will use a "just cause" standard proposed by the union instead of basing discipline on reasons that are not "arbitrary and capricious." In its concession to the town, the union agreed the Town Council will act as the arbitrator in any disputes arising out of disciplinary action.
    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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