Lauderdale Lakes, Florida Reaches Contract With Firefighters

Lauderdale Lakes officials signed an agreement with firefighters, giving them more money and extra holiday pay after two years of working without a contract.

Starting salaries for firefighters and paramedics will jump from about $34,000 to $39,000 by April 2004 following gradual increases throughout the year to make up for a 20-month lapse. Annual holiday time with pay will increase from 80 to 100 hours.

"We signed a three year contract retroactive ... It doesn't totally bring us to where we need to be, but we are sensitive to the city's budget restraint," said John Micklos, district vice president of the local firefighters union.

"We wouldn't have signed it, but the new city manager helped to change the mood," he said.

The contract calls for:

For the fiscal year 2001-2002 firefighters get a 4 percent increase retroactive across the board.

For 2002-2003 they get 5 percent.

In 2003-2004 they get 2 percent starting in October and another 2 percent in April 2004.

The main sticking point was money, Micklos said. Historically, he said, salaries have been low in Lauderdale Lakes compared to other firefighters in the county, and that has resulted in firefighters leaving.

The contract puts Lauderdale Lakes just below the county average. Micklos hopes the higher wages will help retain employees.

"This city doesn't have a lot of cash coming in, but they are trying to rebuild," Micklos said.

The city's 40 firefighters serve 30,000 residents. Last year, they handled about 6,000 calls, not including mutual aid.

"Within record time the new city manager, Anita Fain Taylor, was successful in providing a happy union between the city and the union," said Jonathan Allen, director of Public Works for the city.

"Negotiations began approximately in late February and were ratified in May 2003 as a result of the city manager making it a priority," he said.

Taylor had direct involvement with negotiations. She established a four-member committee of which she was a member.

By doing this, she was able to demonstrate the seriousness in bringing the contract to closure, Allen said.

"Fire and rescue employees can put this contract behind them and move ahead with providing quality fire and rescue services with the citizens in the community," Allen said.

Taylor also helped to establish a labor-relations task force to maintain an open dialogue.

Under a new incentive program, firefighters also will be compensated for educational gains.

Those who obtain an associate's degree will receive an annual bonus of $500; a bachelor's degree $1,000; and a master's degree $1,500.

"We are of the opinion that it is good to have an educated work force," Allen said.