Pinellas Park firefighters, police deal for top pay
By ANNE LINDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times,
PINELLAS PARK -- The city's firefighters voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of a contract that would make them the highest-paid in Pinellas County.
The final vote of 41-6 came after seven months of bargaining between the city and the Pinellas Park firefighters union, Local 2193 of the International Association of Firefighters.
"I believe the vote margin would have been even higher had all 75 members of the bargaining unit attended," union president Jerry Lubick said Friday. "Many who could not attend voiced their support of the agreement prior to the meeting, and others who were satisfied did not attend."
Wages and incentives will rise an average of 20 percent during the contract's three-year term. The current low salary for a firefighter is $28,799. In 2003, under the new deal, the starting salary is $32,206.
That "will make the Pinellas Park firefighters the highest-paid firefighters in Pinellas County," Lubick said. "The Pinellas Park firefighters are happy to have an agreement with the city, especially since we worked five months without a contract during our last negotiations."
Firefighters and paramedics also will receive an increase in pension benefits in 2002 and 2003.
The contract will not become binding until it is approved by the City Council. That vote is scheduled for Thursday.
Police officers also accepted a new contract Friday, reversing an earlier decision.
Rank-and-file officers voted 53-8 to pass the contract that puts them among the county's highest-paid officers.
Bill LauBach, executive director of the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association, credited the turnaround since Monday to educating the officers about the terms of the contract. LauBach said he thought some of the older officers had disparaged the contract, so the PBA representatives had to show the younger officers the advantages of the contract.
"An educated electorate is much better than an uninformed electorate," LauBach said.
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