Government

Council ratifies contract with firefighters’ union

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward speaks to Pensacola Today at his office in Pensacola, Fla., Thursday, November 20, 2014. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today)

The Pensacola City Council voted Thursday to approve the recommendation of Mayor Ashton Hayward, ratifying a proposed contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local 707, the labor union representing City of Pensacola firefighters.

The ratification means that collective bargaining agreements are in place with all three of the City of Pensacola’s employee unions.

As part of the new contract, the Firefighters’ Relief and Pension Plan will remain open to current and future hires through the term of the contract.

A tentative agreement was reached last October. Union membership voted earlier this week to approve the final contract.

“Four years ago, I made a promise to citizens that I would take action to get the City’s pension costs under control, and I believe we have made great progress toward that goal,” Hayward said in a news release. “Reaching these agreements took unity and teamwork, and I want to thank the City Council, Local 707 president Jose Cobbs, and our employees for working with us to protect the City’s financial health. Cities across America are struggling with pension issues, but we are working together in Pensacola to find solutions.”

The contract caps the number of overtime hours considered pensionable, changes the way in which final average earnings are calculated for firefighters with less than 20 years of service, and conforms spousal benefits for new hires to those offered by the Florida Retirement System.

The agreement also reduces cost of living adjustments for future Deferred Retirement Option Plan participants and retirees. In return, firefighters will receive a one-time bonus, with firefighters not enrolled in DROP also receiving wage increases spread out over the three-year term of the contract. As Pensacola’s fire pension plan was established by Special Act, all changes are contingent upon the approval of the Florida Legislature.

Contracts which Hayward reached with the general employees union and police officers’ union in 2012 reduced the City’s unfunded pension liability by nearly $15 million, with the IAFF contract expected to result in a further reduction of approximately $4.8 million.