3-Year Hollywood, Florida Firefighter Pact Approved

Hollywood officials and fire union representatives won't have to sit down at the negotiating table until 2008.

On Wednesday, city commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the fire union's 2005-2008 collective bargaining agreement.

The contract includes an average annual wage increase of 2.7 percent during each of the three years. It will cost the city about $280,000 more a year for three years. Firefighters will also contribute more money toward their healthcare costs.

''There is nothing that is killing either side,'' said Russ Chard, president of the Hollywood Professional Fire Fighters, Local 1375.

Commissioners also tentatively approved changes to the union's current pension plan.

Those changes, which require a second and final vote, will cost the city an additional $631,546 a year.

Potential changes for the city's 220 firefighters include:

Increasing employee pension contributions from 7 to 8 percent per year, which will save $110,043 a year.

Allowing employees to retire after 23 years of service instead of 25 years.

Raising the ''multiplier'' that a retiree uses to calculate pension benefits from 3 to 3.3 percent. That number is multiplied by the employee's years of service and the result is multiplied by the firefighter's base pension salary, which is an average of their three highest-paid years.

In July 2003, commissioners unanimously rejected changes to the pension fund that would have added $2.4 million a year to the city's annual cost of $1.8 million.

On Wednesday, a crowd of more than 40 people -- including dozens of firefighters wearing bright red union T-shirts -- sat in the commission chambers for nearly three hours of discussion.

For nearly 15 months, Chard, City Manager Cameron Benson and others have been negotiating.

''The back and forth with the union representatives hasn't always been easy,'' Benson told commissioners.

Chard later said, ``This has been a nightmare. This has been a roller coaster.''

In other business, commissioners voted 4-3 to allow advertising on the city's fleet of three dozen garbage trucks.