Palm Beach Gardens ratifies firefighters contract

By Sarah Eisenhauer, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2003

PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Almost three months after declaring an impasse in negotiations, the city and local firefighters union worked out their differences with a new contract.

City council members voted to approve the contract Thursday night; union members ratified the pact this week.

Officials with the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County say the contract will help to bring Palm Beach Gardens firefighters' salaries in line with others in the county.

"We returned to the negotiating table and there was a lot of give and take," said union spokesman Joel Brier.

The city got its wish on one of the major sticking points, which focused on the number of "badged officers," or official supervisors, required for each shift. The contract now allows firefighters who have passed tests to qualify for a higher rank but are awaiting promotion a chance to serve as shift officers to gain supervisory experience. The city also would avoid paying overtime, saving about $300,000, officials said.

The new contract also uses a "step plan," which the union wanted, that sets specific amounts for pay raises after a firefighter has worked for the city for a certain number of years. It also calls for 5 percent across-the-board salary increases for employees.

"We believe it's the best agreement we're going to get," Brier said. "The city has more control in how the department is operating and the firefighters will be on a pay scale close to what's going on the county around them."

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