Okay, so here's the deal. You've all heard the saying, 'us vs. them', before. You'll usually hear the term in the form of a pathetic reprisal (ad nauseam, I might add) by one of 'them' if you should ever let fly with certain trigger words like; we, us, the Union, the Bargaining Unit, you-guys, those-guys, they, them or management. Have you ever noticed that Firefighters never mouth the words 'us vs. them', but their side can always find that card on the top of the deck when they feel like they're backed into a corner? It's a clumsy attempt at setting up a straw-man, just so they can knock him down in a move to prove you wrong! Sad.
Any of this sinking in?
To the MUTTS who are responsible for fostering and/or promoting the ever w-i-d-e-n-i-n-g chasm that exists between the Paid Professional Career Service Firefighters, here, and the management types at all city levels - you undoubtedly know who you are! We are eagerly watching and reporting back to the TEAM. If you're one of the MUTTS, some of the information that will be added to this website over the coming months, won't necessarily be your cup of tea. If you're getting the uneasy feeling that you might be one the one's being talked about on these pages - you're probably choking on the tea - so stop brewing it!
To our FIREFIGHTING BROTHERS AND SISTERS... you can easily identify the MUTTS as those who say one thing yet do another, or worse yet - they buddy-up to us to gain our confidence, only to carry our words behind closed doors to analyze our every thought; to plot against those of us who do the heavy lifting. Snitches! Gathering and putting pieces of information together is what this site is all about. It's an attempt at piecing together a puzzle that's built on a solid foundation of evidence.
To all - you will more than likely find two types of information presented on this website ~~
Anecdotal Information: Based on casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis.
Empirical Evidence: Verifiable or provable by means of observation, experiment or through documentation.
Each of you will have to judge as to which category the information that you read here, fits into. Often it will be very obvious to you!
The bottom line begins and ends with each and every one of us! Your web host is part and parcel of a TEAM of like minded individuals who've decided that there are some things that you really ought to know. These 'things' are facts that are being kept from you by the MUTTS, via a piss-poor misinformation campaign, outright lying, egg-sucking, or through grudge-holding!
Here's the Real Bottom Line: Looking for a helping hand? There's one on your arm!
St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters called for it's members to walk in an INFORMATIONAL PICKET Line on
October 6th & 13TH, 2005. By any stretch of the imagination, our actions spoke volumes to the Citizens of the City of St. Petersburg, and City Council, concerning our pay, pension and staffing dilemma! Click here for more information!
Mayor: St. Petersburg construction permits top $413M...
St. Petersburg set a new city record for development in its last fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
The city issued permits for $413 million in new construction over the past 12 months. At the same time unemployment dropped from 6.9 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in July 2005, said Mayor Rick Baker at a Wednesday press conference.
"There is currently more than $1 billion in new development under way in downtown St. Petersburg," Baker said. "This city is on a roll and the momentum is building."
Mayor Baker is bestowed a record 32% pay increase by City Council
during early morning meeting and is crowned-
KING RICHARD THE LION-HEARTED
Not to be left out of the festivities, City Council votes itself a record 40+% pay raise - City management having looked outside the boundaries of Pinellas County to gather facts for more equitable pay comparisons. This being the case, Council members vow to bring Firefighter and Police Officer pay and pension benefits into proper alignment!
"The raises were prompted by an annual salary survey conducted by internal services director Mike Connors, who found local officials made much less than those in several other large Florida cities."
"I think we should pay all elected officials an appropriate dollar amount based upon their responsibility," Williams said. "And it's a lot of responsibility."
"We haven't heard the last about this pay raise," said council member BillFoster, one of three members who voted against the increase. "People are going to be distancing themselves from this vote for years."
"Also voting against the increase was chairman Rick Kriseman..."
Look at the last two quotes above. Gee... what were these two guys thinking? The first has his own bunker gear so that he can ride on our big red trucks (remember... there's always an empty seat or two or three on any apparatus prowling the streets of St. Petersburg)! The second, talks the talk but more often than not - when it comes to taking care of his Firefighters, this guy doesn't walk the walk!
It always looks quite fashionable to turn a pay raise down when:
A. You really want it, but it isn't politically expedient to your future beyond the gates of St. Petersburg
B. You're an attorney and you don't really need the fair compensation that comes by drawing comparisons with other cities of similar size and makeup
C. You're afraid that the PoPo and the Hose Jockeys will be banging on your door for a little piece of the scratch
D. You're just too stupid to see the writing on the wall
The Elephant Remembers All! Yes... It's Embroidery...
As former Missouri Congressman Bill Clay was fond of pointing out “you must start with the premise that you have no permanent political friends, no permanent political enemies, just permanent political interests.”
And our interests are clear.
From organizing new members to demanding responsible public budgets.
From defending our pensions and health care to securing our members’ safety at work.
From fully staffing our rigs to finalizing our HELPS bill to provide an annual $5,000 dollar tax credit for our retired members to purchase health care.
If we want to gain a level playing field and win for our members we have to fight for our friends and defeat our enemies.
So remember... the City of St. Petersburg respects what it is that you do (well they do). You've got the ability to earn all that you want to, you've just got to get off of your lazy asses and work a second job! And remember to hug the wife and kids when you get the chance to see 'em...
Council delays battle on mayor's tax rate cut plan - June 30, 2006
The savings on the individual scale can seem insignificant, council member Jeff Danner said Thursday. "Everyone I see says keep my $76 and improve my services. And it's not that easy, but that's the way it's portrayed."
Council member Rick Kriseman on Thursday proposed a number of additions to the budget, including the additional code officer, more money for home loans for city police officers and more flood prevention equipment for Shore Acres.
Baker questioned what council members would want to spend the extra tax money on. The city has already banked $10-million in the event of an economic downtown, and the mayor's budget proposes adding $2-million more.
The council is expected to set the proposed millage rate July 6. "At which time, our destiny is fixed." -ed
Public hearings on the final budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, are tentatively set for Aug. 31 and Sept. 14.
Oldsmar mayor backs more firefighters - July 8, 2006
"If the city won't lower the property tax rate more, he says, then the Fire Department should get the money."
Vice Mayor Janice Miller said she supports hiring more firefighters, and voted against lowering the millage rate.
Did I read that right? The Mayor of Oldsmar wants to lower the millage rate AND hire more Fire Fighters? Story...
Oldsmar mayor backs more firefighters - July 11, 2006
What started as a discussion about lowering the millage rate at the July 4 City Council meeting turned oddly into talk of hiring three additional firefighters.
The result: a 4-1 vote to lower the millage rate from 4.65 mills to 4.6, and a 5-0 vote to consider hiring more firefighters.
Vice Mayor Janice Miller said she supports hiring more firefighters, and voted against lowering the millage rate.
"To reduce it that much, what's it going to save the people?" Miller said.
When all five firefighters are present, three are assigned to the engine and two to the rescue vehicle.
"It's crazy to have it sitting in the fire station not being used because we don't have enough manpower," said council member Suzanne Vale.
You read it right! They're reducing the millage rate 'and' strengthening their public safety effort. "It's crazy..." Back in
St. Petersburg the citizens drive by Station 4 on 4th Street North and wonder at their newly purchased Heavy Rescue truck, "HR-4" as it sits idle for lack of manpower to operate it! We're a real "major league" city! Story...
You know, it's great to be No. 1 at something... - July 22, 2006
TAMPA - Mayor Pam Iorio's paycheck will be up for City Council discussion Thursday, after her administration requested a $15,000 salary increase for the mayor.
With the raise, the mayor would make $150,000 per year, an 11 percent increase from her current $135,000. It would be Iorio's first raise as mayor.
Council member Shawn Harrison didn't have a problem with the amount requested. St. Petersburg's mayor already makes $150,000 per year, and Orlando's mayor makes $147,000.Story...
Marina getting $6M facelift - July 23, 2006
"Several projects are under way or being planned to update the city marina while making it a bit bigger and more convenient for boaters who want to tie up and go downtown."
Okay, let's do some math here. The Mayor is asking Council to approve a budget whereby the millage rate is reduced, yielding back $5,4000,000.00 ($0.21 per day per taxpayer). St. Petersburg Police Department suffers from the worst retention rate of any department in the state of Florida and St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue is quickly following suit! Story...
TAMPA - By a 2-to-1 margin, Tampa police officers, corporals, detectives and sergeants rejected a proposed contract that would have boosted their pay about 12.5 percent within three years.
The officers voted down the proposal this week 539-268, according to the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union representing Tampa police. The union released the results Thursday.
Union President Kevin Durkin and union Vice President John Swope plan to attend roll calls during the next few days to hear feedback from the officers before returning to negotiations with the city.
"We will have to identify exactly what compelled the majority of officers not to vote for it," Durkin said, noting this was not the first time a contract had been rejected by union members.
The current contract expired Sept. 30. It bars any strike, slow-down, picketing or work stoppage.
Mayor Pam Iorio said contract negotiations are a process and "sometimes the first go-round isn't agreeable to everyone. We'll work it out."
Police Chief Stephen Hogue said he was disappointed the contract proposal was rejected, "mostly because I want to get this behind us and move on with what we do, which is fighting crime."
He had not spoken to officers about their individual concerns.
However, postretirement health coverage was one reason officers said they rejected the proposal. The current contract provides for 100 percent of health care coverage and 50 percent of employee dependents' coverage, but no coverage for retirees.
"That's the one thing in the package - the first thing - everybody looked for, and it wasn't there," said Detective Chip DeBlock, who voted against the proposal.
Other agencies, such as the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, pay for a percentage of postretirement health costs based on an employee's years of service, said Tim Ingold, a lieutenant with that agency and president of that county's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
"Retiree health care is a huge problem," and not just for law enforcement officers, Ingold said.
DeBlock, who cofounded a law enforcement Web site and popular message board, LEOAffairs.com, with retired Tampa police Sgt. Jim Preston, said he and many colleagues don't want to lose a chunk of their pensions to health care costs.
Preston, head of the state's Fraternal Order of Police, pays $948 a month for his family health plan, DeBlock said.
"The insurance issue is very real and very scary," DeBlock, 44, said. "A lot of the guys we worked with who have retired are working at Home Depots and working with the city as civilians just to get the health insurance."
Some officers disagreed with the pay raise but not out of greed, DeBlock said. "If they're having to pay for the health care out of pocket … the feeling was, if you're not going to give us the most important thing, compensate us by giving us the money instead," he said.
The rejected proposal would have allowed the union to participate in the city's decisions regarding future health care plans. This didn't soothe DeBlock's concerns, which Ingold said he could understand.
"It's like a kiss and a promise," Ingold said. "Sometimes people want to see some action."
Had the contract been ratified, officers would have earned from $42,286 to $68,681 during this fiscal year and from $45,739 to $74,276 before the contract expires Sept. 30, 2009.
Sergeants would have earned from $68,681 to $84,302 during this fiscal year and from $74,276 to $91,187 during the contract's third year.
Police lieutenants fall under a separate contract that provides them with similar benefits.
In this week's 16-5 vote, they opted to ratify the contract, making their earnings range from $85,113 to $92,414 retroactive to Oct. 1. They will earn from $92,060 to $99,964 during the contract's third year.
I was impressed to see the number of officers who voted on the contract issue (807 of you). Even more impressive was the ability of a vast majority (539) to stick together in doing something rather difficult, voting down a proposed contract. I haven't seen that kind of unity in years.
On Friday (today) there will be a newspaper article in the Tampa Tribune by reporter Valerie Kalfrin. It will cover our voting down of the proposed contract with the City and try to explain to the public why. It is very important that the public understands our true motivation for voting "No" so they don't get the wrong impression that we're a bunch of greedy public servants. This Message Board will be swamped with citizens on Friday reading to find out what's going on. You have a rare opportunity to let them hear your voice and, perhaps, support your cause.
I realize that I am not your representative and that I don't speak on behalf of everyone. At the same time, I have spoken with a good number of officers and believe that the most pressing issue is Health Care Cost (competitive pricing while we are active employees and a coverage benefit when we retire). This level of importance was also revealed in the top two priorities of the PBA survey that we took. However, for whatever reason, these concerns were not adequately addressed in the proposed contract (from my point of view).
Citizens are probably not aware of the number of retired cops (even recently retired) who have had to come out of retirement in order to pay their health care costs. They are working at Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart and even taking civilian positions with the City just to get health care benefits. Many officers are still employed at the police department, years after qualifying for retirement, simply because they cannot afford to leave. Some of those who have retired will now be paying $948 a month (1/3 of their pension) in health care costs. That is unacceptable! Next, consider the decreased life expectancy of police officers (due to the job) and you'll begin to get the picture.
We realize that we have a dangerous but important job and we're not complaining about that. We simply want what we really need, and that’s a health care benefit. If we are unable to secure this benefit, then we will need a better pay package so we don't lose 25% - 33% of our pension as soon as we retire. It can mean the difference between an officer having to postpone his retirement for an additional 5 to 10 years. It's a quality of life issue for us.
Many officers have lost faith that we will get a health care benefit package and concentrate on the money issue (instead of the dead issue). Don't get me wrong, we need competitive pay too, but I think the most important issue here (and the most beneficial to us) is the health care package. It is my belief that we'd rather have the benefit.
So why dig our heels in and fight now? It's probably our best chance in the foreseeable future to get this accomplished. The City of Tampa's Property Tax revenues have increased 72% in recent years to $167.7 million. They have grown more than twice the rate of personal income growth in Florida during the past 6 years. Home prices in Florida have increased 77% in the last three years. In other words, things are getting tight. Also, a number of police agencies across the country (including the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office) now have a health care benefit (including a Free benefit) for their retired officers.
Hopefully the citizens of Tampa will understand our plight and support us. If any officer is motivated differently than what I described here or if he agrees, please feel free to post in this string on the topic.
Thanks for your support!
Chip DeBlock, Co-Founder
Brothers and Sisters
As you are all no doubt aware, two and a half years have passed since St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters began bargaining in earnest with the city of St. Petersburg for long overdue pay, pension and workweek benefits reform. Finding nearly no movement on the part of the city's negotiations team over this entire time period - while other Fire Fighters in our own backyard make gains, Local 747 has once again found itself in an unenviable position. We are formally declaring impasse with the Public Employee Relations Commission for the second time in twelve months.
Outside entities such as the League of Cities are heavily relied upon by municipal leaders as an ideological and tactical resource bent on squeezing the most work out of a workforce for the least amount of compensation. There is a growing commitment and trend among gov't entities to water-down, change or altogether strip retirement benefits from employees. Fire and Law Enforcement pension funds are constantly under attack as they are more expensive to fund. They're expensive for good reason. Each year Fire Fighters and Law Enforcement Officers literally give up their good health and their lives for the communities they are sworn to protect. Compensation is due and warranted even when part-time politicians blur the lines and foul the good intentions of the citizenry
As we go to impasse, be mindful of the fact that Florida law allows us to now plead our case for just a single contract year. We're essentially in the same position we were in a year ago (being a single year behind) and as such, we're negotiating for the contract year in arrears - '05-'06.
A couple of final thoughts...
At no time in the past decade has the city of St. Petersburg been in a more enviable position to assuage some of the sins of the past. Both the 2006 & 2007 city budget numbers reflect record funding in ad valorem tax dollars (see the Property Tax vs. Police/Fire Expense chart on the Contract page). 100% of the dollars brought into the city coffers from property taxes are mandated to be used for public safety. While those ad valorem tax dollars never quite fulfill the 100% funding obligation (currently at just over 90% for the first time in over 14 years), the city now enjoys the benefits of being in the best position it's been in in years to help us catch up in pay, benefits and pension with our Brothers and Sisters at Tampa FD, Hillsborough County FD and Palm Harbor FD - all of whom are within 30 minutes driving time of St. Petersburg..
Take a moment to review both the article and the email below. You'll see many similarities in our two situations. On a possible bright note, Mayor Pam Iorio states, contract negotiations are a process and "sometimes the first go-round isn't agreeable to everyone. We'll work it out." That's an example of dialogue we've not seen coming from 'this' side of the bay!
Note to self:
ST. PETERSBURG ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS HIT THE
1000 DAY MARK
BARGAINING FOR PAY, WORKWEEK & PENSION IMPROVEMENTS WITH A GREEDY CITY ADMINISTRATION THAT DOESN'T NEGOTIATE WITH IT'S
Folks, the atropine in your Military Nerve Agent Antidote Kits is out of date.
All of the NAAK's that are currently housed onboard your
Rescue Lieutenant Vehicles
Heavy Rescue Truck
Training Division Vehicles
Prevention Division Vehicles
will be collected by Pinellas County. In return, the Paid Professional Fire Fighters
who protect the citizens of the city of St. Petersburg will receive two (2) NAAK's for each Advance Life Support Vehicle! Yup - you read it right. There will no longer be enough NAAK's to go around. But listen... it gets better. Not only will we not have enough NAAK's to keep all of us alive in the event of a Nuclear, Biological or Chemical attack, but all of the NAAK's will now be stored on the Hazmat truck, potentially miles away from initial contact!
Note: If you see members of the public approaching you and they're bleeding and their pants are soiled - if you don't decide to run away, you may not be able to!
All for the want of about $10,000 -
that's how the city of St. Petersburg rolls the dice with your life and mine!
PS: The City of Seminole is doing the right thing (DTRT) by purchasing the additional units needed to protect all of it's Paid Professional Career Service Combat Fire Fighters!
"I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on why an investment in public safety is so important to our community.
Since I took office in 2003, city government has been focused on the basics - key essential services that improve our neighborhoods and our overall quality of life. At the center of the basics is an emphasis on public safety, both police and fire rescue. When I first became mayor, I was greatly concerned about our crime rate and the drug holes that were dominating certain parts of our city. In September 2003, Chief XXXXXXX XXXXX was hired and we agreed that our priority was to make XXXXX a safer city."
It shouldn't take extraordinarily erudite mind to figure that the statements above didn't emanate from from the pie-hole of the Mayor of St. Petersburg!
Even though the Tampa Police Union is at odds with Mayor Pam Iorio after their most recent contract 'no vote', Ms. Iorio musters the intestinal fortitude to publicly orate on her position.
When have any one of the Law Enforcement Officers or Professional Fire Fighters of the city of St. Petersburg seen this type (or any other kind) of dialogue from the Mayor of St. Petersburg? Read it here...
December 14, 2006
On the picket line...
As the Mayor of St. Petersburg is often heard to say... "It's another great day in St. Petersburg!" Yes it was. And it was an even better day for the men and women of St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters Local 747 who brought the story of our plight to the streets of St. Petersburg. More than 150 Brothers and Sisters from our Local along with friends, family and numerous members from surrounding Local's were in attendance. Story Watch the video.
December 15, 2006
The end of community policing...
This and many city services being cut by the Mayor and company so they can bring big business in and then on top of this the Fire Fighters union fighting for their lively hoods and having to march on city hall to bring to the attention of city hall the plight they are in. How much more can the city and the citizens take before we rise up and let this city management know that we are not going to take it anymore.
Casimiro "Cass" V. Rael, Sr.
North Kenwood Neighborhood Assoc., Inc
December 20, 2006
Some police applicants won't need college credit...
"The Police Department, which has struggled for years to recruit and retain officers, is relaxing education requirements for some applicants.
The department will require no college credits from applicants who have two years of law enforcement experience at another agency or three years of honorable military service."
There you have it, Brothers and Sisters. Poor management of this city's public safety programs by this Mayor and Human Relations has come back to bite them in the ass! From their very own mouths, the one roadblock to Fire and Police pay and pension parity has just been removed. Merry Christmas!
December 20, 2006
Harmon defends policing policy change...
But community police do a lot of schmoozing while the other officers run back and forth on 911 calls. That causes tension, and that's where community policing breaks down.
"It made no sense to me as chief that 10 percent of my workforce, or less than 10 percent of my workforce, is doing community policing when 90 percent felt it wasn't their job," Harmon said.
But Chief Harmon says St. Petersburg is different. His force is chronically understaffed and the chief says some of his community officers are just plain lazy. He even says neighborhood leaders have reluctantly and quietly complained. Story & Video
"The City Council awarded the Police Department a 6 percent raise last week, making the force of 32 officers one of the highest paid in Pinellas County."
"Police union representatives initially turned down a proposal by the city in October because it did not provide for a fixed annual cost of living adjustment."
"In the new contract, which is valid until September 2009, officers can receive a maximum 4 percent cost of living increase. They also will receive a 2.5 percent raise each year if they earn a satisfactory evaluation and can earn up to a 2 percent merit-based bonus."
Penny For Pinellas passes muster in Tuesday's vote.
Congratulations goes to the city of St. Petersburg! Continuing what has become a tradition for
The City That Ignores Public Safety, the city of St. Petersburg can continue for the next 13 years, to
NOT FUND the PURCHASE ofFIRE APPARATUS, POLICE VEHICLES, FIRE STATIONS or POLICE STATIONS!
This comes as no surprise to the Paid Professional - Career Service Combat Fire Fighters & Firefighter/Paramedics
of this city, as the Mayor and Council don't properly fund the salaries and benefit packages of their public safety personnel, either.
The Mayor and City Council refuse to make equitable comparisons of pay, workweek and pension benefits with like sized cities for their
Fire Fighters benefit - yet lavish themselves with pay raises of 32% and 40% respectively, based on those same comparisons, we are denied!
MANATEE COUNTY -- The Manatee Education Association announced Monday that the county's teachers have approved their contract for the current school year.
About 73 percent of teachers who voted approved the contract, which includes a 9 percent raise.
The teachers' approval was the final step in what has become a heated and drawn out negotiation process between the school district and the union.
The two parties came to an impasse in negotiations in September, and the School Board had to make a final decision. The board approved a contract recommended by Superintendent Roger Dearing on Jan. 19.
The 'Us vs. Them' website and it's loyal following wish to thank all of the members of the St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 747 for their attendance at this year's impasse hearing. While we didn't come away with the hoped for 'win' for the year in arrears, we did manage to drive several points home that otherwise seemingly wouldn't have made it to council's ears while in the company of the Mayor's 'spin team'. It's unfortunate that we took some grief for not getting to council sooner, (Herb Polson) while simultaneously being accused of rushing to judgement (Mike Connors) by declaring impasse after only five meetings. We're wondering if an even half dozen meetings might have done the trick within the same 31 month time span.
Our Union Executive Officers are to be commended for doing yeoman's duties for these many months. The combined team effort of yourselves, labor attorneys and economists along with the impassioned pleas of our loyal membership, provided the factual basis for all that we'll do in our future endeavors to realize the respect of city council & secure a quality labor contract.
And... to our Brothers and sisters who have not yet sought greener pastures... 'Thanks' goes to you. While a natural attractant to this website - the not so uncommon web based disagreements were all left behind, here in the cyberworld. Let's let this be the start of something really great, as we move forward towards a multi-year contract befitting this professional group that was lauded much praise by a Mayor and Council that freely and openly espouses our greatness! -ed
Florida House leaders, under pressure from panicked local government leaders, have backed down from some on their reckless property tax reform proposals.
But as the ground shifts, it becomes clearer every day that property tax reform in Florida is evolving in precisely the wrong way: hastily, ill-thought-out, with radical gimmicks offered up in the expectation that greedy voters will happily untax themselves with little concern for the potentially disastrous consequences for government services.
The leadership in Tallahassee should admit that they jumped the gun on property tax reform, rushing out ill-considered proposals with way too little study and discussion of the complex unintended consequences. More...
March 30, 2007
St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue faced a significant fire incident this week. I arrived on the scene of the overturned tanker fire, equipment storage yard fire, and storm water system fire shortly after 11 PM on March 28th. From that moment until the press conference the next morning I had the privilege of watching our personnel perform. What a superb effort! I am extremely proud of the way our department responded to the many challenges this scenario presented. I have been to several functions and meetings since the incident and have heard nothing but praise for St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue. I was told at one function that “to see the way this was handled by your department gives us in the community a great sense of comfort and pride.” This was an outstanding effort and I am extremely proud of all of you. -James Large, Fire Chief
Posted on Thu, Jun. 21, 2007
Davie firefighters win big with contract
The Davie Town Council approved a generous new contract with the firefighters union, even as state-mandated budget cuts loom.
BY BREANNE GILPATRICK
Just days after Davie discussed ways to slash its budget in light of state-mandated tax cuts, Town Council members approved a union contract to give firefighters increased retirement benefits and a raise of about 15 percent.
Supporters of the deal, which will enable firefighters to retire after 30 years on 95 percent of pay, said it's essential for recruitment.
''We need to look at: Is this this fair and where does this put us in comparison to other municipalities,'' said Town Councilman Marlon Luis. ``If we're not up there, if we're not in the top third, we're not going to keep our top guys.''
The deal will give Davie the second most generous pension program and one of the most generous pay plans, according to figures compiled by the town staff.
''This one goes too far,'' Mayor Tom Truex said. ``In my opinion, this is a contract the town cannot afford.''
Luis and council members Michael Crowley and Susan Starkey voted for the contract. Truex and Councilman Bryan Caletka voted no.
The vote comes as cities throughout South Florida have been pinched by rising pension costs and looming property tax cuts.
In Davie, for example, pension costs for all city employees have increased by almost a third between 2000 and 2006. And in other Broward cities, pension costs have jumped by as much as 300 percent, making them tough for cities to afford.
Under the new Davie contract -- which took more than a year and a half to negotiate -- firefighters will be able to retire on 75 percent of their working salaries if they retire after 20 years and 95 percent of their salaries if they work an additional decade. Among comparably sized departments, only Pembroke Pines has more generous retirement benefits, and city leaders have had trouble affording the payouts in recent years.
Under the old plan Davie firefighters received 70 percent after 20 years and 90 percent after 30 years.
More than $3.9 million is included in this year's budget to cover fire-rescue retirement benefits. The increased cost will be covered with an existing tax levied on property insurance premiums collected in town and set aside for pensions and benefits.
As part of the new contract, firefighters also will receive a retroactive 8 percent pay raise starting October 2006. And a 6.5 percent raise starting in October 2007. With the wage bump, Davie firefighters and paramedics will earn more than their colleagues in Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.
With the raises, a Davie firefighter or paramedic, will receive between $50,000 and $73,000 a year.
From the pie-hole of a man who's a legend in his own mind...
"3.5%? If I'd been at the hearing, those lazy firefighters wouldn't have gotten 1%!"
-Councilman John Bryan, belittling St. Petersburg Fire Fighters at a recent Tiger Bay Club meeting!
The comment: "Cut government employee benefits first."
The facts:Council member Herb Polson suggested exploring a plan to change the amount employees contribute to the health care costs. Currently, 75 percent is paid by the city. It's unclear if Polson's suggestion will go anywhere. In the next year, the city is expected to spend an additional $1.8-million in health care costs.
The comment: "Get rid of all the deputy mayors and cut Baker's pay to what he is actually worth. Don't cut the funds to the libraries or rec centers. We need these departments more than we need deputy mayors."
The facts: Baker created the term deputy mayor when he took office in 2001. City officials say there are no more senior administrators today then there were during David Fischer's administration. Fischer's chief of staff position has been replaced by Baker's deputy mayor for Midtown and Economic Development. Fischer's public works administrator has been replaced by a schools and policy administrator, which until this year, had acted as the city's fourth deputy mayor.
"City Council member Herb Polson wants to start a discussion about changing the cost-sharing balance, saying the current plan is difficult to defend given the pressure on local government budgets."
"We haven't compared ourselves on a regular basis with some of the private sector companies," said Gary Cornwell, St. Petersburg's human resources director. "We're starting to look at that now."
Generous health benefits have long been a perk of government employment. With local governments forced by a new state law to roll back property taxes, some are saying it's time to cut back. Here's the percentage of health plan costs that local governments are paying this year; employees pay the remainder. Workers are responsible for paying plan deductibles and copayments.
This letter is in response to Mr. Swift’s letter dated May 30, 2007. Aside from Mr. Swift’s point of view, there have been other recent attacks by city, county, and state leaders, and citizens which focus on the many privileges, benefits, and "golden parachutes" that emergency services workers are purportedly enjoying. Please allow me, as someone who has earned, bargained for, and paid for these privileges, to respond.
Approximately one-third of your city employees are considered "Emergency Critical" and are required to remain available at ALL times when faced with emergency situations. Another one-third are considered "Emergency Essential" and are required to report back to work as soon as called. In both cases, these employees are required to leave their homes, families, and loved ones when duty calls, regardless of their own necessities.
How many private sector employees of this city can recall the last time they were notified while sitting at their desk job that they would be leaving in one hour for a 3- to 5-day deployment to another area to provide assistance to a storm or fire ravaged area? How many have been told during the day that they would not even be allowed to go home until after the storm or emergency has passed? This is what is faced by many of the employees of this city, and for these considerations, this is why they are afforded the privileges not seen by the private sector.
This city has an obligation to its citizens and business community to provide certain services to maintain a safe environment for its population. This is only possible through services that require public servants to operate, not only on a guaranteed basis and within set time frames, but also at a moment’s notice when faced with an impending natural disaster, unforeseen calamities, civil unrest, or to ensure public safety when the city puts on "the big show" for a national holiday. Many of these services require 24/7/365 staffing.
While Mr. Swift is concerned about the widening gap in values of retirement benefits between public and private sector employees, I felt it important to expand this letter to include comparisons of the health care provisions as well. In order to provide quality service to the community, a well-maintained and healthy work force is required, and, therefore, the City must provide health care that most private sector employers are gutting. For example, if, in the normal private services market, a business owner were to experience a loss of productivity due to a large number of employees becoming ill, it would not have the same impact on the community as fire or police shortages due to illness would have in times of emergency. Because we work with the public, we are encouraged not to come to work if we are sick with the flu or other contagious illnesses. This could not be accomplished if we did not have the assurance of paid compensation for sick leave.
As for the pensions, Mr. Swift stated in his letter that he has "worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies in the past 12 years." Employees in his situation are typically provided with a 401K or similar type retirement plan. America has seen a tremendous downturn in industrial jobs in the past two decades due to outsourcing to other countries where workers are paid less and provided with little or no benefits. In their exodus, corporations have chosen to provide for their upper level management while abandoning their promises made to the work force that they leave behind. Americans, as a result, have to live with substandard services and merchandise and deal with service centers located in other countries.
Mr. Swift fails to understand that there is a vast difference between the private sector and the public sector. When private sector employers abandon their workers, they continue to produce their goods and services in a competitive market. The public sector employer, on the other hand, must provide quality service to the community in which it exists. The community benefits from the many years of dedication and experience provided by long-standing employees. Rewards of guaranteed pensions provide an incentive to those employees who remain employed by the same city for many years. When a public sector employer adequately funds attractive health and pension plans, employees tend to want to remain with that employer. The private sector is driven by profits, often at the expense of employee wages and benefits. The public sector, on the other hand, must factor in competitive wages and benefit packages if the community is going to be well-served.
As a member of the Council, it is your responsibility to set a budget that assures that this city has all of the necessary equipment, staff, and finances available to endure the everyday routines as well as the unexpected. You cannot control the costs of insurance, fuel, food, or durable goods. You must, however, plan for and provide the means that will ensure quality service from experienced employees. We ask for your continued support and guidance to properly fund the services of this great city. The 3,000 employees and their families do not deserve to be punished in order to appease a small handful of anti-city government reformers. Is $2.47 per day from the General Fund (Citizen’s Budget Fiscal Year 2007) too much to enable us to continue to provide the quality of life services we have come to know and enjoy?
We understand that you and each member of Council will be faced with many unpopular decisions in the uncertain and difficult days ahead. Please keep in mind, a city is only as great as the services provided. While to some people, providing quality wages and benefits to public sector employees is viewed as a money loser, we believe that the City of St. Petersburg will be seen as a winner if it chooses treat its fire and police employees with the highest regard.
Winthrop M. Newton
President IAFF Local 747
cc Mayor Baker & City Council (All)
Teachers to get 8 percent raise
As districts locally and statewide fret about budget cuts,
Hillsborough feels confident.
By LETITIA STEIN
Published July 19, 2007
"The significant increase, which follows a 10 percent raise last year, comes as districts statewide worry about budget shortfalls."
Once again, the City of St. Petersburg retains it's first place rating... first at being last!
In the last several years, the city of St. Petersburg has eclipsed every other city in Pinellas county with it's ability to bring in 'real' tax dollars. In spite of this fact, the members of St. Petersburg City Council, with the help our lame-ass mayor, have maintained the attitude of the master in the big-house, denying us the opportunity to rightfully take our place as Combat Fire Fighters and Fire Fighter Paramedics who labor for the fourth largest city in the state of Florida. Our value (or lack thereof) was made readily apparent during our recent impasse hearing, where they denied us the opportunity to earnestly redress our grievances with them while under the gaze of the public's eye. The members of St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters have to decide, (and fairly soon) that what we've done in the past to get the attention of those who write our pay checks, isn't working. It's time to get off of our lazy asses and start writing personal checks to those individuals who will run campaign's in opposition to this group of MUTTS. These MUTTS show the greatest contempt for those of us in public safety who go out there on a daily basis to perform the heavy lifting.
Are you not yet tired of feeling the sting of the back of your master's hand? You should be when you've finished reading below.
Seminole firefighters may pay more into city pension fund
By BOB McCLURE
Article published on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
SEMINOLE – Beginning in October, city firefighters will be paying a little more into their pension fund if an amendment to the most recent collective bargaining agreement is approved by the City Council.
City Manager Frank Edmunds explained the change to city councilors during a workshop July 10 in preparation of a formal vote July 24.
Edmunds said City Council approved a three-year collective bargaining agreement with IAFF Local 2896 in early 2005 and part of the agreement was to amend a city ordinance that affects pension benefit enhancements as part of “total compensation” before Oct. 1, 2008.
The enhancements are the addition of a “25 and out” benefit allowing firefighters to retire after 25 years of service and a “W-2” pension benefit that will expand the retirement benefit calculation.
In return for the added pension enhancements by the city, the firefighters agreed to increase their personal contribution each pay period from 7 to 8 percent.
The purpose of the enhancements was to bring the pension plan up to the levels of other comparable plans available.
“The pension plan is in a much better position than it was five years ago,” Edmunds said.
The city’s match into the pension fund has been as high as 34 percent in the past and was 25 percent in fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2008 it will drop to 19 percent, Edmunds said.
ST. PETERSBURG - A resident filed a complaint to the State of Florida's Commission on Ethics concerning the pay raise voted on at the Dec. 15, 2005 St. Petersburg City Council meeting. According to the complaint, this is a violation of the Sunshine Law Article II, Section 8 that states "Any public officer or employee who breaches the public trust for private gain and any person or entity inducing such breach shall be liable to the state for all financial benefits obtained by such actions. The manner of recovery and additional damages may be provided by
The agenda for the Dec. 15 meeting has no mention of a pay raise. The addendums and deletions say nothing about a pay raise either. In fact, it was only after 10 hours after the meeting began, at almost 1 a.m. in the last meeting of that year, did the council members decide to raise the issue.
Council members voted unanimously to increase Mayor Rick Baker's salary from $113,644 to an even $150,000. Then decided after a 4-3 vote to raise their salaries 40% from $27,316 to $38,000. Originally, Councilwoman Rene Flowers suggested a salary of $44,420, but it was defeated by a 4-3 vote.
The complaint to the ethics committee is for all eight council members; William Foster, James Bennett, Rene Flowers, Earnest Williams, Richard Kriseman, Jay Lasita, Virginia Littrell and John Bryan. Although they all voted to increase the mayor's salary, only Bennett, Bryan, Flowers and Williams voted to increase their salaries. It is said Littrell left the meeting before the vote. Currently, Bennett, Flowers and Williams are still on the council; Bryan was serving until he committed suicide last month after news of an unrelated investigation was uncovered. The three members who were leaving office voted against the pay raise.
Any complaint to the ethics committee remains confidential until it reaches a procedural stage. Once a complaint has been made, the commission forwards a copy of the original to the accused within five days. It is then determined whether the allegations indicate a possible violation of any law over which the commission has jurisdiction. If the complaint is found not to be legally sufficient, it will be dismissed without investigation. If it is found to be correct, a preliminary investigation will begin.
Last, the commission will decide whether the law was actually violated and, if so, whether a penalty should be recommended. The accused has a right for a public hearing, and if convicted, the appropriate disciplinary action is recommended and a public report of its findings is issued
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - At least three local governments have pulled more than $350 million total out of a state-run investment pool, shaken by troubles in the mortgage industry.
About 1,000 cities, counties and school districts around Florida pool their money together and have it invested by the State Board of Administration.
Pinellas County this week pulled out its entire investment of $290 million and the cities of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park withdrew smaller amounts, the St. Petersburg Times reported Wednesday.
A spokesman for the State Board of Administration said the story "appeared to be accurate," but declined to comment on how many cities and counties may have taken money out of the state investment pool, saying the SBA doesn't comment on governments' investments in the pool. The newspaper reported that as much as $6 billion has been withdrawn from the $27 billion pool.
The head of the board, Coleman Stipanovich, told Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet last week that the mortgage industry's problems on Wall Street had led some securities held by the state, including those in the local government pool, to be downgraded to below investment quality. But Stipanovich noted that the investments hadn't lost money.
He also said last week that none of the nearly 1,000 local government entities that put their money into the fund have lost any money because of downgrades.
The investments in question aren't actual mortgages, but securities for which certain mortgages are the collateral. That collateral is still good, state officials said. But the sale value of the investments have gone down because of fears that have hit the mortgage as a whole.
The city of St. Petersburg pulled $50 million out of the state pool earlier this month and has about $58 million remaining. Pinellas Park withdrew $14 million from the pool and is trying to determine what to do with $8 million remaining in the fund, a city official told the newspaper.
The local government pool, officially known as that Local Government Surplus Funds Trust Fund, is the largest local government pool in the nation. It is essentially a money-market fund, investing mostly in short term securities.
For local governments, it's mostly been a good deal, giving them high yields with extremely low fees.
If it is any consolation the PBA is no better [than the FOP]. They have not seemed to wake up to the fact that police unions here are powerless because the City does not negotiate. They know the unions are powerless and they exploit that. The city could care less about the unions. That being said the unions should spend every waking moment being a thorn in the side of the city. Don't play nice with them, cause they will just FU in the long run. Now before you union reps start crying about how the rest of us need to step up, may I point out the fire union. You don't get more participation and cohesiveness than the local fire union, but even with that they get F-ed by the city every time they bend over. What they do a good job at is mobilizing votes. Just ask Ed Montanari.
-From a recent discussion at LEOAffairs.com
St. Petersburg City Council Swearing In Ceremonies - January 2, 2008
Wengay Newton thanked the Fire Fighters for the part we played in his election win
Bill Dudley thanked the Fire Fighters for the part we played in his election win
James Bennett had multiple opportunities at the dais but chose instead to ignore us
Herb Polson had multiple opportunities at the dais but chose instead to ignore us
City officials blame tough economic times for their less-than-
generous proposal, which the union calls insulting.
By Demorris A. Lee, Times Staff Writer
Published February 26, 2008
CLEARWATER - More than four months after their contract expired, members of the Clearwater Fire Department's union are still no closer to reaching a new agreement with city officials.
They called the city's latest offer insulting. But Clearwater officials say they don't have much leeway in light of the tough economic times, especially with the recent passage of Amendment 1.
"The budget impacts don't stop with Amendment 1," said Joe Roseto, Clearwater's human resources director. "The budget reductions that the city may have to endure may be greater. We have to have cost certainty."
Officials from the city and Clearwater Fire Fighters Association Local 1158 Inc. sat across from each other Friday at the North Greenwood Library in their latest effort to reach a new three-year contract.
The groups have been meeting since May. The 2004-07 contract with the city expired in October. Firefighters have been working without one since then.
The city offered the firefighters two contracts Friday. One was a one-year deal that didn't include a raise. The other was a three-year contract that provided for a 2 percent raise the first year. In each of the following two years, the union and the city would re-negotiate any potential raises.
But union officials say they want a 4 percent raise, the same amount given to other city employees. In October 2006, the Police Department negotiated a 4 percent annual raise for three years. The Communications Workers of America Local 3179, the city's largest employee union, also received about a 4 percent annual raise.
We've been informed that during Tuesday's 'officers meeting' that St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue's Assistant Chief took some liberties that not even the president of the St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters would dare take before a large audience of Unionists. We've been told by one who was in attendance (and later by yet again, another) that Jim Wimberly intimated or hinted at the notion that the long and drawn-out contract negotiations we've endured over these many months could be solved by ratifying the city's contract offer. He made it known that the city's 2.5% GWI offer was the city's best and final and that the insurance increases would probably be instituted regardless of whether or not we ratified the city's punitive contract offer to us. Just so you know that he's one of us, he later mentioned that he would also like to have a COLA, but that it probably wasn't in the cards.
It's been said that "an army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep." Well... we're glad he's not leading this Union. If the truth be told, the job's already been filled and not by a sheep, but by a lion who's leading other lions!
Both, state and Federal rules exist to protect labor from such abuse or misuse of power. The National Labor Relations Act states that "the Union has the sole authority to bargain for it's members." Under the "exclusivity principal," both, members of labor and management must be careful to avoid bargaining outside the authority of a recognized union. It really doesn't matter who starts the conversation - management must not comment. If management attempts to respond to employee-initiated contact without going through the union first, the employer can run afoul of the NLRA’s exclusivity principle. This, however was not the case during Tuesday's officers meeting. Management brought the issue to labor!
For those of you who attended one or both of the Union's contract informational meetings held on Monday & Tuesday, (April, 7&8, 2008) your Union president pointed to all the facts pertaining to the city's offer and left the act of voting for ratification up to YOU. At no time did any of your Union officials tell you which way you should vote.
If your Union president believes enough in you to do the right thing for youbynot coercing you, then you deserve not to be coerced, intimidated or interfered with by chief officers of this or any fire dept.
If anyone outside of your labor organization attempts to discuss any aspect of contract negotiations or the upcoming contract ratification vote, politely inform them that they are out of bounds and that such coercion will be reported to your recognized bargaining agent -- your Union president! --Ed.
I'm about sick of hearing about how much firefighters, police and other public employees make in overtime.
Maybe a short history lesson is needed here. A federal law (FLSA) requires a public employer to pay time and one half the regular hourly rate to non-exempt employees when they work more than a certain amount. For most employees the ceiling is 40 hours before O/T kicks in. For law enforcement the ceiling is 43 hours in a 7 day period. For firefighters the ceiling is 53 hours in a 7 day period. There are all kinds of ways the employer can manipulate the work period to reduce the financial impact of this law, and some employee take "comp time" off in place of the money.
The only reason for overtime at all is because the employer does not hire enough employees to provide the needed service. Follow closely here, but this is not rocket science. The lack of manpower forces the employer to require somebody to come to work on their regular day off. When public employers chronically under staff, the employees work a lot of overtime. Some employees volunteer to work and others do not. When there are not enough volunteers, the employer requires the employees to work. The work is not a gift or bonus. The purpose of the law was and still is to penalize the employer who does not hire enough people to provide the service with employees working their regular hours. The FLSA went into effect during the Great Depression and was passed, among other reasons, to decrease unemployment by encouraging the employer to hire more employees by penalizing them if they did not.
In today's news, we regularly read about the "greedy" public employees who make all this extra money in overtime. This is bullsh*t. In order to discredit the employee side of the resistance to taking pay cuts, the employer, with the media's assistance, inflates the earning of employees to make it seem like they are overpaid.
Frequently, a firefighter's work schedule is 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. This benefits both the public and the employer as it allows for 24/7 coverage. Law enforcement frequently uses 10 or 12 hour shifts to provide this coverage. Many other employees work similar shifts in the public sector to provide the needed 24/7 service. Such concentrated work time allows for concentrated time off for the employee as well.
What this means is that regular work schedules require the employee to work more and the employer by law must pay overtime rates. It is a part of the job not a #@!%&(^%^ benefit.
Frequently when a union negotiates a wage rate, it finds that the employer is trying to maintain a lower hourly rate to make the yearly salary fit into the "market." Hourly rates for firefighters are frequently relatively low. When the union wants to increase the rate, the employer reminds them of how many hours they are "allowed" to work which makes their yearly salary more competitive. The same applies to police and other workers.
Sure, some fire, police and other public employees work a lot of overtime, but they did not force to employer decide to under staff which causes the overtime.
Here is an interesting video that actually addresses the excesses of public employees.
In what was expected to take at least two months to decide, Brother Brad Westphal was informed in just under two weeks that Florida's 1st District Court of Appeals had rendered a decision in his favor! A landmark decision of this stature might never have come to fruition if it weren't for the peerless mastery of Brad's two attorneys, Jason Fox and Richard Sicking! They stuck by Brad and his family from day-one to ride out the storm with him.
If you've taken the time to view the video links that we previously provided, a decision like this that makes life a bit more tolerable for those of us who become injured on the job, would never have gotten a chance to see the light of day if it weren't for the cheapskate antics of the City of St. Petersburg screwing our Brother out of a year's worth of pay that was legally owed to him. We're sure the city's about to receive an avalanche of calls from other city's thanking them.
February 16, 2013
Here at Us vs. Them we're dumbfounded when we hear members talk about the City of St. Petersburg as if it were some kind of benevolent father who is always ready, willing and able to reach out; to go above and beyond to help make it right by its Fire Fighters, especially when any one of them is injured in the line of duty. Brad Westphalis one of those Fire Fighters who knows all too well that behind the benevolent father's velvet glove lies an iron fist.
For months the City paid a private investigator to follow and take video and still pictures of Brad in settings as private as his backyard, to trips to his doctor or simply going to the store. This was all in an attempt to keep from paying Brad what was owed to him as a Fire Fighter injured in the line of duty.
Brad and his attorneys have been to court on several occasions fighting for benefits owed him. This past month Brad found himself back in court one more time to recover a year's worth of lost wages that the city refused to pay him. Take a look at the video from the Florida 1st District Court of Appeals and you'll get a sense of just how far the City of St. Petersburg will go to keep one permanently injured Fire Fighter from a year's salary. See if you get a sense of what the judges think about the City's treatment of a "catastrophically" injured Fire Fighter.
For nearly 30 years, it was his job to kick down doors, climb hazardous perches and carry people out of burning cars and buildings. He was part of St. Petersburg's marine rescue team, its hazardous materials team and worked as a medic for the SWAT team.
Then one day he suffered a catastrophic back injury on a routine call.
And the city of St. Petersburg abandoned him.
Court shifts its course in workers comp case
Appeals court still supports firefighter in battle for benefits
TALLAHASSEE — A divided appeals court Monday backed away from a ruling that found part of Florida’s workers compensation insurance system unconstitutional, but continued to support an injured St. Petersburg firefighter in his legal fight about disability benefits... Read more.
St. Pete firefighter's case attracts Legislature's attention
A closely-watched legal case involving workers' compensation benefits, a disabled firefighter and the city of St. Petersburg is now before the Florida Supreme Court, which on Tuesday added it to its list of high-profile cases because of extensive public and media attention.
The case has drawn the interest of numerous business organizations, trial lawyers, unions, the Legislature and Attorney General Pam Bondi as well.
At the center of the case is Bradley Westphal, a former St. Pete firefighter who suffered a catastrophic spinal injury while moving furniture at a fire in 2009... Read More.
We've written about KY Fire Lt Arlie "Pooh" Hill who died a few days ago after suffering horrific burns. I was amongst those at the hospital with him and his family the next day. Guess who else was there? His Chief, his members, his STATE Fire Commission Executive Director and Commissioners and - this absolutely shocked me - a woman representing the Kentucky Bureau of Workers Comp.
WHO I asked her when she told me.
Yep-Kentucky Workers comp to - as she said "do whatever it takes to help the family get through this". Read More.