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Magistrate sides with Pasco County in firefighter union impasse

A special magistrate has ruled in favor of county administrators on seven of the 10 "impasse" issues during negotiations on a new contract with the Pasco firefighters union.

Most importantly, county officials say, Special Magistrate Mark Sherman rejected all union proposals to increase their salary and benefits package.

"It was good news," said county personnel director Barbara DeSimone. "We just don't have it in the budget at this point."

The union had previously agreed to give up merit increases. Sherman's Nov. 30 ruling also rejected a union proposal for the county to offset the 3 percent retirement contribution from employees that lawmakers approved this spring. That new law affects all public-sector workers.

Sherman also rejected proposals to increase the number of firefighters who can be on vacation at the same time, relax the rule about firefighters having second jobs, and to allow firefighters to receive retiree health insurance after 25 years instead of the current 30.

He also agreed with the county that firefighters should continue to provide routine lawn maintenance at fire stations. He called it a "creative agreement to save a bargaining unit job."

Sherman agreed with the union proposal to allow commemorative 9/11 stickers to go on fire trucks and helmets. He also rejected a county proposal to "clean up" a provision regarding arbitration cases, DeSimone said.

Both the county and the union have until Dec. 26 to reject any of Sherman's recommendations. Any rejected provisions go before the County Commission for a hearing. Once a proposed contract is finalized, it goes to union members for a vote.

"The union has a lot more decisions to make (about what recommendations to reject)," DeSimone said. She said the county is still thinking about objecting to the sticker if the final design includes a union logo.

Union president Ralph Grant could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Magistrate sides with Pasco County in firefighter union impasse 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:22pm]
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