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Pasco firefighter contract stalemate ends

Pasco County officials struck a deal with the local firefighters union Wednesday, signaling a breakthrough in more than two years of troubled negotiations.

"Hopefully it gets ratified by the (union) rank and file next week," said Barbara DeSimone, the county's personnel director.

Ralph Grant, president of the Pasco County Professional Firefighters, said he welcomed the compromises and expects his rank and file will accept the deal.

"I'm glad we got the agreement with them," Grant said. "We've been trying to get a contract for two years."

The big-ticket changes to this week's deal give firefighters 86 more hours of overtime, a 2.5 percent salary increase incentive for firefighters who ride on ambulances, and double the clothing allowance from $200 every two years to $200 a year.

These concessions will cost the county about $608,000 a year, DeSimone said.

Last October, Pasco firefighters won another $1.1-million raise after a state agency ruled the county improperly excluded them from pay increases in 2006. Firefighters had packed a County Commission meeting to protest the negotiations standoff at the time.

On Friday, Grant signaled that the union may drop an unfair labor practices complaint it had lodged against the county that claimed DeSimone delayed negotiations.

"We're looking to probably settle it," Grant said.

The union still hopes the County Commission would help to reduce firefighters' health insurance costs, which Grant said is higher than what neighboring fire departments pay.

But for now, both sides say they've reached a reconciliation.

"We understand the budget constraints they're facing, and that we're going to have to move a little slower than we had hoped," he said.

Pasco firefighter contract stalemate ends 04/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 12:16pm]
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