FIREFIGHTERS WITHOUT A CONTRACT - Kristen Friend-Weaver10/01/03
Approximately 200 Hillsborough County firefighters marched around the County Commission building this morning in an attempt to bring a new sense of urgency to their failed contract negotiations. The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners was meeting inside at the time. WMNFÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Kristen Friend-Weaver has moreÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Hillsborough County firefighters are now working without a contract since they failed to reach an agreement with the county administratorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office before September 30. Although there are certain protections that exist for the firefighters without a contract, others such as wage security and wage increases do not. Karl Schmitt, the President of the Hillsborough County Firefighters Union, organized the Ã¢â‚¬Å“informational picket.Ã¢â‚¬? Schmitt said that the Firefighters have no problems with the Board of Commissioners. However, he believes that commission members need to know about what he calls the delay tactics of County Administrator Dan KlemanÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Schmitt has emerged as a firefighter activist since becoming president of the union three years ago, and some believe he is one of the countyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most visible labor leaders. He was responsible for pushing a communications tax through the commission this summer that helped raise some of the necessary funds for new stations and improved fire rescue services. And although he takes some of the responsibility for the failed negotiations, be believes the county administrator has had more than enough time to act on his offerÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The Firefighters union is demanding either an acceptance of its offer or third party non-binding arbitration. According to Schmitt, the FirefightersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ demands are in line with current market conditions. However, he said if an independent third party reviewed his offer and decided in favor of the county administrator, he would consider changing his position. Schmitt also said that they had already asked for a third party intervention this summer, but Kleman refused saying that he needed more time on the issue.
But in the nine months since contract negotiations began, County Administrator Kelman has only met with the Board of Commissioners only once to inform them of the progress of the discussions. And although he does not believe there should be a set number of meetings, Schmitt says that one is not acceptableÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Schmitt and other union members believe that Kleman has failed to act on the contract because it has not yet become a political hot topic. Now they want to press the issue because Kleman will be facing his annual performance review in November. For WMNF News, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Kristen Friend-Weaver.