Dunedin firefighters to file unfair labor grievance against city
DUNEDIN - Firefighters are threatening to file a grievance against the city, saying they are being denied a retirement benefit they were promised during contract negotiations.
Dunedin Firefighters Association leaders say they're disappointed that the City Commission gave initial approval Thursday to an ordinance that puts excess money into the pension fund rather than using it to establish a new retirement benefit for firefighters.
Union officials say they negotiated their new contract on the assumption that firefighters would split some portion of $832,000 in pension reserve money with the city.
The union says its nearly yearlong contract talks with the city were based on estimates that firefighters would receive as much as half of the reserve money. They had planned to use the money to start a share plan - an account in addition to their pension. Typically used to fund things like retirees' health care costs, the money can't be touched until after retirement.
But an annual actuarial report recently determined that the entire $832,000 should go to the city as reimbursement for extra benefits the city gave to firefighters over the last decade.
Union officials say they believe city negotiators had an inkling during bargaining about the actuarial report's final pension plan findings, but said nothing.
"We took no raises this year on the premise we would get this share plan," said Mark Zipeto, union vice president and lead fire negotiator for Local 2327 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
City negotiators counter that those estimates weren't based on final actuarial figures.
Commissioners said they believe the issue boils down to a miscommunication between the city and union.
Saying negotiations had already gone on too long and that they couldn't let the firefighters renege on their agreement, they gave the pension ordinance initial approval last week. A second public hearing and final vote is set for June 16.
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