Tampa firefighters get a raise

08/22/08 Concetta DeLuco
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Tampa City Hall was the hot spot for controversy today as hundreds crammed into the building to hear the City Council’s verdict about the much disputed firefighters’ pay raise. Over the past year, both the city administration and the firefighters' union have debated endlessly in an attempt to agree on a one-year contract that would satisfy both sides.

After pushing for a combined 10 percent pay raise, the city council voted unanimously to give the firefighters' union a 5 percent salary raise and 4 percent cost of living increase. The city, on the other hand, has argued not to exceed a 6.5 percent raise. Firefighters say the raise will actually be much less for more than half of the department members who are already at the top of their pay scale.

Among the hordes of firefighters and their families who waited restlessly in the corridors of the council chambers was Brian Riley, a 25-year Tampa firefighter, who expresses his dismay about the standoff.

In Tampa, the annual income of starting firefighters is about $33,000 and over the course of 11 years their maximum salary reaches around $64,000. As part of its proposal, the city is also trying to do away with the current step plan which provides firefighters with raises that vary in amount over the course of a career.

Robert McCabe, attorney for the firefighters, argues that compared to surrounding cities and counties, Tampa firefighters are among the lowest paid. The step plan, he said, is among the few appealing incentives that are used to recruit new firefighters to Tampa. With the citiy's proposed plan, firefighters would not have been able to reach their top pay for 19 years, McCabe said.

Jonathon Carrigan is a 4-year Tampa firefighter who stood amid a crowd of his colleagues decked out in bright yellow T-shirts that read “I’d Die For You, What’s That Worth?” He said he was disappointed with the plans the city had proposed.

While making her budget presentation to the City Council this month, Mayor Pam Iorio said one of the main reasons for having refused the union’s proposal is because it would set a precedent that could affect future negotiations with other unions.

Regardless of the many monetary issues that were incessantly nitpicked and disputed, the firefighters obtained a much anticipated one-year contract that begins Sept. 30 and contains the stipulations for the new raise scale.

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