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Palm Beach County--Firefighters Bargain for Fair Wages

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  • Palm Beach County--Firefighters Bargain for Fair Wages

    Palm Beach firefighters win round with mediator

    By Tim O'Meilia, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, September 3, 2003

    PALM BEACH -- A mediator has sided with the town's firefighters in recommending that town officials establish a step wage scale and retain longevity pay.

    Mediator Stanley Sergent of Sarasota concluded that the town's pay-for-performance system created unequal wages among firefighters, causing low morale. He also said in a 50-page report that eliminating longevity pay would hurt morale.

    The town and Local 2928 of the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County have been negotiating since December 2001, when the bargaining unit was formed. The union declared an impasse in June and the mediator was called in to make recommendations on wages and more than 20 other lesser items.

    The town was willing to abandon its pay-for-performance system but also wanted to drop longevity pay.

    "The longevity pay in a step system for pay raises rewards the same thing. They both reward years of service," Town Manager Peter Elwell said.

    The firefighters would lose an average of about $4,000 if longevity pay does not continue.

    The Palm Beach system of merit pay combined with longevity pay "is somewhat unusual in the public sector," Elwell said. "However, the special master is incorrect in concluding that the system is unfair."

    Both sides have 20 days to accept or reject the recommendations. If none are rejected, the contract would go to the union for ratification. If some objections are made, the town council will make the decision and the union will vote on that. If the union refuses to ratify the contract, negotiations begin again at zero.

    Elwell said the town is studying the recommendations and has yet to decide whether to reject any. Firefighter representatives did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

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    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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