Naples leaders to firefighters: Take our final contract offer or we reach impasse

Roger Reinke

Roger Reinke

— It's the final offer.

That's the message Naples officials sent to the union representing the city's firefighters during a Dec. 16 meeting to discuss ongoing negotiations.

The offer includes either a 2 percent increase in base pay or a 2 percent bonus, as well as changes to health benefits and the pension plan. But, according to a Dec. 19 letter city leaders sent to union members, the offer is only good if the two sides reach a voluntary agreement.

The letter, sent by assistant city manager and labor relations manager Roger Reinke three days after the two sides met, was meant to inform employees of the offer.

It states that "pension reform is critical to controlling personnel expenses" and that the city's final offer for a voluntary three-year agreement includes changes to the firefighters' pension plan.

Under the city's proposal, the current pension plan would be frozen as of May 31 and all employees would be vested in the frozen benefits earned through May 31. A new plan — with reduced benefit levels — would be created on June 1 and all employees would be enrolled in that program.

The pension plan would be similar to the Florida Retirement System.

If a voluntary agreement isn't reached, the two sides could head to an impasse hearing, and Reinke in the letter said the city's position would change.

"Since it appeared there was some distance between the city's position and the union's position, we wanted to make sure we communicated exactly what our proposal was to the union representatives (and) make sure all the members knew first-hand of our proposal," City Manager Bill Moss said.

Bill Moss

Bill Moss

"Since it appeared there was some distance between the city's position and the union's position, we wanted to make sure we communicated exactly what our proposal was to the union representatives (and) make sure all the members knew first-hand of our proposal," City Manager Bill Moss said.

Adam Nadelman, the union's president, declined to comment on the letter, but said his team is "getting ready to take (the offer) to the membership."

The Dec. 19 letter appears to be the first time in recent years that city leaders have directly contacted union members to explain a contract offer.

The city sent a letter in 2004 when the Office and Professional Employee International Union was formed for general city workers. Moss said in a Dec. 28 email to the Daily News that the city was unable to find any other letters to union members.

Steve Meck, general counsel for the state's Public Employee Relations Commission, said while a direct dealing with union members during negotiations is unlawful, it is "not an unfair labor practice to speak to the employees ... as long as it is informational and accurately outlines what the offer is."

Mark Gow, a Cape Canaveral-based labor relations expert, said mailings aren't out of the ordinary.

"It's a ploy, it's a tactic, it's a strategy," Gow said. "It happens all the time. Sometimes it kind of irritates the other (negotiating team)."

Irwin Scharfeld, a labor relations consultant for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said he doesn't recall his members receiving a letter during past negotiations, but said "it's not unheard of."

Scharfeld said he doesn't think it would bother him if members received information from the city outlining a proposal.

"It all depends on how it was couched," he said. "There's a fine line."

Robert Young, president of the city's police union, said members didn't receive a letter outlining the city's position when the sides neared an impasse in 2010. Young said he wouldn't have been offended if such a letter had been sent out, though.

"I think that (the city) wants to ensure that all the firefighters, from rookie to senior, are educated on what is at stake if they go to impasse," Young said.

If a voluntary agreement isn't reached, the next phase of negotiations would likely be a non-binding impasse hearing with a special magistrate. If both sides don't accept a magistrate's proposal, the city could impose a contract on the firefighters.

The union's most recent three-year agreement ended in September 2011.

__ Connect with Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/jenna-buzzacco

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features