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Tampa firefighters give up raises, get 46 percent tuition reimbursement bump

TAMPA — By a vote of 62 to 18, the firefighters union on Tuesday approved a new contract that includes no raises this year.

Mayor Pam Iorio and the union hit in an impasse in negotiations in July. The biggest sticking point was pay raises.

The union, which has 637 members, had been willing to forgo cost-of-living raises because of the shrinking city budget, but wanted to hold onto so-called step raises given to new recruits in their first years of employment.

Capt. Jace Kohan, the union treasurer, said the low member turnout may be because of firefighters' disapproval of the compromise.

"It speaks for the hard economic times that we are in," Kohan said.

"We're not happy about it. It's a disappointment, to tell you the truth."

The police union faced a similar battle with Iorio, and its demands were rejected when the contract went to the City Council for a vote this month.

That prompted leaders of the firefighters union to give in on the step increases and reach an agreement with Iorio.

The compromise includes no raises this year for firefighters. But it does increase money available for tuition reimbursement and an exemption from random drug testing, two provisions the union had sought.

Kohan said the contract increases a tuition reimbursement fund from $78,000 a year to $114,000 for firefighters who are continuing their education.

The contract now goes to the City Council for final approval.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa firefighters give up raises, get 46 percent tuition reimbursement bump 12/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 8:15am]
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