SEMINOLE — The Seminole Professional Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2896 and the city of Seminole remain at an impasse as they await a special magistrate’s follow-up decision on contract negotiations between the two parties.
During last year’s collective bargaining, the Local 2896 declared an impasse May 30, bringing negotiations to a standstill. Their contract expired Sept. 30 and Seminole Fire Rescue employees have worked without a contract since Oct. 1.
Special Magistrate Edward J. Gutman heard from both sides during an Oct. 11 due process hearing at Seminole City Hall. He later requested additional information on their wages and benefits proposals.
In January, Gutman submitted his decision to both parties. In his formal decision, he sided with the union on many of the areas of dispute presented to him, including sick leave, vacation and holiday pay, seniority and reduction in force, grievance procedure, and pension.
The special magistrate failed to provide a decision on wages, which was the primary area of concern during negotiations, though.
After the decision was made, the city submitted a settlement proposal for a three-year contract to the union. This settlement called for a “salary increase of 5 percent for each of the three years of the proposed contract” if individuals receive a “satisfactory evaluation” during their annual reviews, City Manager Ann Toney-Deal wrote in a March 23 email.
She added, that this new proposal “would represent a 15.76+ percent salary increase when you compound the 5 percent over the three-year period.”
The union did not accept the new proposal, though.
“The city did come with a new offer, but it only addressed wages and ignored the other articles that are lacking, even though the impartial third party special magistrate recommended for the union on almost all of those issues thus far. So, the union had no choice but to turn down,” wrote Jeremy Newton, union president, in a March 21 email.
The union requested that Gutman reconsider his decision and make a recommendation regarding wages.
“At this point, we are still at impasse and without a contract for the last six months, waiting for the final recommendations from the special magistrate,” Newton wrote.