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City agrees to raise wages for firefighters, changes in pensions
Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, May 20, 2014 6 years ago

City agrees to raise wages for firefighters, changes in pensions

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by: Emily Blackwood News Editor

Though it’s not official until the city commission votes May 20, there could be changes to the firefighters and other labor unions’ paychecks. 

After two years of negotiation, the city and the fire union may have reached an agreement in terms of pay.

City Manager Joyce Shanahan said the results of the lengthy contract negotiation for the past three years is as follows:

  • 2012: 3 percent increase on a one-time bonus
  • 2013: 2.75 percent increase on a one-time bonus
  • 2014: 2 percent wage adjustment

The city has also be in negotiation with all three of its labor departments to work on a pension reform, which is a part of the contract with the fire union. Those changes include a minimum age eligibility requirement of 52 for new hires with 25 years of service, a benefit level reduction for new hires to 2.75 percent multiplier from 3.33 percent, a cap on overtime amounts and leave buyouts, and more equitable rate of return for employees choosing the Deferred Retirement Option.

“In 2013 the city changed its defined benefit pension plan for its general employees,” Shanahan said in an email, “to mirror that of private business with a defined contribution plan for all general employees hired after January 2013. Collectively, these benefit changes are expected to save the city $250,000 annually as we move forward. The City appreciates the collaborative nature of negotiation and spirit of compromise from the fire union to move forward with pension reform.”

President of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3499 Eric Sommerlad said the department felt the negotiation was fair and the union voted yes 35 to three.

"We worked hard and we came up with the pension reform that the mayor had talked about," Sommerlad said. "When you have bad years like we did from 2005 to 2011, pension works very poorly. Now pensions are performing much better. Prior to the bad years I don't think anyone was calling for a pension reform. There was a time, before my day, where pensions were a supplement that said 'okay you're paid a little low so this pension will help you retire. I still think they're important but they can be expensive."

Sommerlad said the changes in the firefighters pension will have an impact on their new hires.

"I think we'll see more turnover," Sommerlad said. "Only in the long term they will see the whole picture because now they want firefighters to work longer. I'm 50 and my chances of getting hurt are greater as I get older. But we don't have sour grapes. As a person that wonders how the city works, Joyce Shanahan and the mayor and commission have done financially what is has taken to get through these bad years. They've done exactly what they are supposed to do and we can't fault them for that."

Public Information Officer for the Ormond Beach Police Department Keith Walker said they would be getting a 2 percent raise starting June 1. The raise would continue for the next three years.

The city commission will vote on the department pay contracts May 20.

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