Largo officials, firefighters get mediator's plan to end contract dispute

For eight months, Largo firefighters have been in negotiations with the city for a new union contract.

Meeting after meeting, the city and the firefighters came away without a consensus.

The city declared the negotiations at an impasse in February, in part over issues with vacation time, hours of work and sick leave.

But a new three-year agreement may be on the horizon after a special magistrate met with both parties last month.

The special magistrate, Robert C. McHenry, offered recommendations on resolving the remaining issues by "pretty much cutting the baby in half," according to Largo Professional Firefighters union treasurer William Murphy.

The solution "was a fair compromise," Murphy said.

While the city wanted to reduce special vacation hours for the department's most experienced employees from between 12 and 36 hours, depending on years of service, the firefighters did not want to lose any hours — since Largo firefighters receive less vacation time than other local departments of similar size.

Commissioners argued that in the city's strained financial state — undergoing budget reductions four years straight — it needed to reduce costs in the fire department.

McHenry suggested a reduction of between two and eight hours instead. He also recommended that firefighters' stepped wage increases be frozen, rather than changed to a different pay range plan favored by the city.

City commissioners held a closed executive meeting Tuesday to discuss the magistrate's recommendations.

Murphy said if city officials accept the recommendations, a new contract of up to three years will be drawn up, and city commissioners will need to vote to approve it.

If the city does not approve the recommendations, the union will go back to the negotiation table.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo officials, firefighters get mediator's plan to end contract dispute 06/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:48pm]

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