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Tallahassee firefighters' union will march on City Hall over contract negotiations

Tallahassee Fire Department
Anna Jones
Tallahassee Fire Department

Members of the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Association will march to City Hall today. They want to bring attention to their extended contract talks with the city. They’ve been in negotiations since March.

The starting salary for Tallahassee’s firefighters is $44,729. According to their union president, Joey Davis, they’ve been pushing for a pay increase since the spring. But Mayor John Dailey says the slow process doesn’t mean the two sides have reached an impasse.

“No. We’re right in the middle of the process and we’ll continue," Dailey said. "I have full confidence that we’re going to come to an agreement, but we’ve got to let the process work its course.”

Davis says the Tallahassee Fire Department has lower pay and fewer benefits than many other departments--making recruitment and retention a problem. He says recruitment efforts have gotten increasingly difficult compared to 10 years ago.

“Any recruits from anywhere in the Big Bend area wanted to work for the Tallahassee Fire Department," Davis says. "We were recruiting away from other departments around us – Wakulla County, Jefferson County, all of those smaller departments around us in the Big Bend. Now we have people going to those departments from our department. They pay a little bit more than us.”

But Tallahassee Deputy Fire Chief Richard Jones says recruiting firefighters is a national problem.

“We feel like one of the most important things for recruitment and retention is raising the starting salary," Jones said. "And both sides are working towards that, so we are hopeful that we can come to an amenable contract for both sides and continue to raise that starting salary for our firefighters and give them a salary increase and pension [contribution] reduction. We will continue to work diligently to achieve that goal.”

Davis says the city can impose certain conditions in negotiations with the firefighter’s union, and one is pay.

“Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point," he said. "Hopefully it doesn’t get to the point of them having to impose something that’s not fair. Because I don’t think anyone really wants to see what that’ll do to our firefighters, number one, but what that will also do to our community. We’ve dealt with enough issues of not having good will.”

Local union firefighters will gather at their statewide office on West Madison Street today at 1:30 for their march to City Hall.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.