Local News

Sebring council to decide issues regarding union contract

SEBRING - It’s likely the Sebring City Council will decide in a special meeting within the next two weeks issues regarding pensions, promotions and discipline that have separated the city’s administration and the firefighters’ union. At a meeting last week, some smaller issues were resolved, but progress wasn’t made on the bigger issues, said both City Administrator Scott Noethlich and Ross Edmonds, president of Sebring Professional Firefighters, Local 3210. However, that’s about the only thing on which they agreed. So far at least, according to Edmonds, they haven’t agreed on when the City Council should meet. He said the union wants the meeting to be in the evening when more people can attend, but the city in his perception seemed to favor an afternoon meeting. If the City Council and the union fail to resolve the issues during that meeting, an impasse would likely occur.
Brian Koji, an attorney who represents the city on legal issues, said that with an impasse designation, the city could impose a contract for one year, with negotiations following that. If no one changes their minds, the process could repeat itself, Koji said. One of the biggest issues has involved pensions. The city wants to place non-vested firefighters and new hires on a different type of plan, saying the pension plan is becoming too costly. But the union has argued that all current employees – and not just those who’ve worked 10 years to qualify to be vested – should be eligible for the pension. Edmonds said he offered a compromise of having five-year and more employees eligible for the plan. He said he believes the union has been more willing to compromise, while the city sticks to its positions. Noethlich said the union can present proposals to the City Council, which in any case makes the final decision. A special magistrate supported the union’s position. The union and the city have also disagreed on the discipline policy. The current contract allows for employees to appeal to an arbitrator. The city maintains that city officials should decide on discipline. A third area of disagreement is over what the city argues is a promotion policy that favors those with a longer tenure, as opposed to the best person in some cases.


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