JACKSONVILLE, FL – Members of the Jacksonville firefighters union overwhelmingly approved a new three-year deal with the city Wednesday night.
The contract, approved by 73 percent of the voting membership, preserves the 2 percent pay cut members agreed to three years ago. In return, the city promises that it will not demote or lay off firefighters save for cause.
The city will save $2 million a year, a total built into the budget the City Council approved Tuesday night.
The contract also includes a de facto limit on vacation time, guaranteeing that up to 5 percent of the workforce can be off at any one time, but prohibiting the use of leave over that threshold if it would require other employees to work overtime.
Vacation time became a major issue during the more-than-half-a-dozen negotiating sessions, with the city saying scheduling will become more difficult as the fire department shrinks.
Several dozen workers are slated to retire in the next three years, and those positions are not likely be filled.
The new deal also includes a promise that the union will return to the table to discuss pension benefits, although local union President Randy Wyse said such talks will go “absolutely nowhere.”
The union has steadfastly said that the city must negotiate pension benefits with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, and the contract includes language saying the position won’t change.
The membership agreed to the deal because of the security it provided, Wyse said, particularly in light of the layoffs and demotions that hit 300 city employees.
“That made our members realize the draconian cuts that were occurring to city employees,” he said. “The membership understood they didn’t want to go through that.”
The deal must now be ratified by the City Council, which will vote on it Thursday morning.