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Clearwater unreasonable in firefighter dispute

Re: Firefighters to boycott city, story, June 21

On firefighters, city unreasonable

I had the opportunity to watch city of Clearwater spokesman Doug Matthews on the evening news. Mr. Matthews was responding to the proposed boycott of Clearwater by the nation's firefighters. Mr. Matthews claimed that this is a "typical union tactic to personally attack people that are in charge to try and get their way."

It would appear to me that it is the other way around — the city of Clearwater is attacking the firefighters. The city has yet to win one unfair labor practice or grievance. So — explain to me if I am wrong — the firefighters are standing up for their rights in cases where they feel they are not being treated fairly.

Being treated fairly should be a right of all the employees of any organization. The fact that every unfair labor practice and grievance has been found in favor of the firefighters would indicate that the city and its leaders are not being fair and willing to work toward bettering the fire department.

The city is taking a hard-line stance against the firefighters, and as a citizen, it is clear to me that the city is not being reasonable.

There are many issues that the city needs to resolve: the outstanding grievances, the union contract and the muscular dystrophy boot drive. I know that this is not an easy task, but inflammatory remarks about unions aren't going to make that happen any easier or sooner. I also want to point out that the union is there to protect the members against outrageous acts by the city. It appears to me that the union is doing its job.

I would not be writing this letter if the city was winning labor issues, but it is not. Stop wasting city money, stop costing the city money (by firefighters boycotting) and treat the firefighters the way they deserve to be treated.

Theodore S. Handoga, Clearwater

Re: Firefighters to boycott city, story, June 21

Resolve dispute before costs rise

For the last eight years Clearwater city government has spent time and our hard-earned tax money to battle the very people who work daily to provide an excellent service to the citizens. This battle has been to stop justly earned cost-of-living raises and to even reduce other benefits.

These public servants can only seek recourse through mediation because they are not allowed to strike, and I am sure that they would never entertain that thought either. I am speaking of the ongoing battle between our firefighters and paramedics and the city management.

If memory serves me correctly, it was just in 2002-2003 that the contract negotiations with our firefighters and paramedics were at impasse. Well, here we are again. Why can't this issue be resolved without the constant bickering and posturing?

Maybe it is not just about the money but about some major changes in the contract language that our firefighters and paramedics simply cannot live with. How about it, City Manager Bill Horne? Can't these issues be resolved before it costs the citizens more money?

Bertram Hogan, Clearwater

No winners in this standoff

We as a state voted last year on Amendment 1. It was a small savings to us as individuals, but spoke volumes to the government entities that for years employed tax-and-spend practices without the more responsible saving for a rainy day.

Now staring down the barrel of a true recession, cuts are required, but where to begin? Easy — governments always use police and fire. That always garners public interest. We raise our arms, yell no, and so the cycle continues.

Narrow the focus to the city of Clearwater, a prosperous city for many years, enjoying the fruits of the economy. Building bridges the state would have funded if we exercised patience. Building a Beach Walk that was supposed to reel in the tourists, but to stay where? Now the downtown — beautiful, but empty; there is no draw and none on the way. Next up: the downtown marina and its ever increasing costs.

The recession is here. The question is, how to lessen the blow? One would think the answer would be to halt infrastructure projects that are on the table. More responsible spending of discretionary funds: i.e., canceling unnecessary trips to Philadelphia with stays at the Ritz Carlton. Curtailing the perks upper level management receives.

I see the constant strife between the city administration and its firefighters as a lose-lose situation. The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in arbitration, unfair labor practices, unjust firings and discrimination, never winning and ill-advised by a Tampa law firm, Thompson, Sizemore & Gonzalez. All the firefighters can do is hold strong to what they were given previously.

The City Council continues to turn a blind eye to the inequities placed on the firefighters by a city manager who can't avoid the win-at-all-costs mentality, working through the dirty hands of the censored fire chief.

The union request to boycott Clearwater is a last resort to raise awareness. It has only happened in the state twice. This speaks volumes.

The reality is, there is no winner here — not the city or its fire personnel, and most importantly, not the public.

Carol Lewis, Holiday

Clearwater unreasonable in firefighter dispute 06/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2008 6:55pm]
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