Magistrate Releases Recommendation in Firefighter Contract Negotiations

Magistrate Releases Recommendation in Firefighter Contract Negotiations

After more than a year of negotiations between the City of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Union, a special magistrate has recommended a solution in a detailed, 26-page analysis.

The City of Tallahassee and the firefighter’s union began negotiating a new contract in March of 2023. However, after 21 failed negotiating sessions the city and union sought help from a special magistrate. The report was released late on Monday, June 17th.

The city and the firefighter’s union are trying to resolve a one-year contract before negotiating the parameters for a three-year contract.”

A city spokesperson said the City of Tallahassee will accept the special magistrate’s recommendation.

“The City has received the Magistrate’s decision, and we appreciate his great recommendations,” city spokesperson Alison Faris said. “We don’t have any objections and will implement the recommendations with the fire union’s acceptance.”

The union has stated they are ready to put the recommendation to a vote as long the parameters are implemented retroactively for the current fiscal year.

The Recommendation

The main issues in the negotiations are related to wage increases, benefits, and pension contributions for the different employee ranks.

According to the magistrate’s analysis, the firefighters proposal would cost $1.4 million while the city’s proposal would cost between $700,000 and $750,000, leading to a difference of approximately $650,000 to $700,000. This difference is approximately 1% of the Fire Service budget for FY2025, which is approximately $60 million.

The magistrate used a comparison of base salaries between Tallahassee and three other cities which included Gainesville, St. Petersburg, & Cape Coral to support his recommendation. The comparison table is provided below.

Using the comparisons and giving consideration to pension contributions and other benefits, the magistrate provided a proposal detailed in the table below.

For the rank of firefighter, the union proposed giving firefighters a 6% raise across the board. The city proposed a 4% raise. The special magistrate suggested 5%.

For other ranks, the magistrate’s wage increase recommendation fell more closely in line with the city’s proposal.

For instance, the union wanted to give captains and battalion chiefs 1.75% raises. The city proposed giving those ranks no raise. The magistrate agreed. He also aligned with the city’s proposal on engineer salaries, giving them a 1.5% raise instead of the 4.25% the union wanted.

The special magistrate nearly matched the union’s proposal for lieutenant salaries, suggesting 2.5% raises. The union had proposed 2.75%, while the city proposed no raise.

Comparison to Police Officers

The negotiations between the firefighter’s union and the City of Tallahassee became part of the acrimonious split on the city commission between the progressives – Commissioner Jack Porter and Commissioner Jeremy Matlow – and the liberal Democrats – Mayor John Dailey and Commissioner Curtis Richardson and Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox.

Commissioner Matlow adopted the firefighter’s cause with inflammatory rhetoric, posting on social media, “The Mayor’s assualt on firefighters must come to an end.”

During the negotiations, Matlow posted on social media that, “Firefighter pay should start at $60K, the same as we did for police officers last year.”

However, the magistrate dismissed the union’s comparisons to police officers.

“”While I acknowledge the police employees also have significant hazards of employment, physical qualifications, retirement plans, and job security, the nature of the work is qualitatively different as are their respective daily schedules,” the magistrate wrote.””

8 Responses to "Magistrate Releases Recommendation in Firefighter Contract Negotiations"

  1. @David
    I think you are correct. I just read the magistrate’s report and it seems to indicate that the city will reduce the amount of contribution that Firefighters make to their pension plan and the city will increase their contribution by the same reduction percentage. That keeps the total amount added to each Firefighter’s pension plan the same.

    They’ll receive more take-home pay each month and the city is including that amount as part of their pay increase package. However, that does NOT actually increase the Firefighter’s basic pay like a real salary increase would. It just allows him to keep more of the salary he’s already earning. That part of their increase package is basically what I would call a “phantom increase.” Quite deceptive on the part of the city, but still a real cost increase to them.

  2. Stop raising taxes. Instead cut something out of the budget. Stop paying people not to work. Maybe giving commissioners a $45,000.00 raise was a stupid idea. Commissioners say, we need affordable housing. Higher property taxes will be passed on to those that rent.

  3. @ Commonsense = I’m thinking that the 3.75% reduction in the pension contributions the FF is asking for, the City is supposed to make up.

  4. Is the Firefighter Pension Program a defined-benefit plan or a defined-contribution plan?

    If a defined-benefit, that means the city will reduce their contribution to the plan by 3.75%. If it’s a defined-contribution, that means the amount contributed to the plan by the Firefghter would be lowered by 3.75%.

    Or, maybe they have a matching-contribution plan.

    No matter what type of plan it may be, the losers are the Firefighters. Putting less money into a retirement plan could have significant financial implications in later years as people enter retirement.

    Does anyone know anything about these retirement plans and could shed some light on this?

  5. Let me get this straight… the city commissioners voted themselves a 100% pay raise for their part time jobs. All while nickel and diming the firefighters over what amounts to about 25 bucks a week!

    Every one of those cretins on the commission needs the boot!

    (Then I saw the firefighters were endorsing Porter…now I’m sorry they gave them anything, everyone sucks.)

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