Pay raises approved for Sarasota County members of International Association of Firefighters

Increases were to go into effect Oct. 8

Although no discussion was held on the topic before the recent vote, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved the county’s new collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local No. 2546.

The pay raises are in effect for just the 2023 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1 a county staff memo said. However, they were to go into effect on Oct. 8, the staff memo noted.

The item was part of the board’s Oct. 11 Consent Agenda of routine business matters.

The estimated impact of the agreement on the county’s budget for this fiscal year will be about $5.1 million, the memo pointed out. “Staff is reviewing the budget to identify any potential savings,” the memo added, with the goal of bringing to the commission a budget amendment to reflect the additional expense.

The memo also said that staff anticipates that an increase in county fire assessments of 3.5% to 6.5% — above what the commission already has approved — will be needed.

The county “has 537 Emergency Services Department positions represented by the [union’s] bargaining units,” the memo added. County staff and representatives of the IAFF “met six times to develop a new agreement,” the memo noted.

As part of the negotiation process, the memo continued, “staff completed a market analysis … of comparable and similarly situated fire departments to identify where Sarasota County firefighters were positioned within the market.”

The memo added, “Many of our comparable jurisdictions have come to agreements that contain significant increases” in firefighters’ wages and benefits. “Both negotiating teams worked to identify and come to agreement on an equitable contract to make the [Sarasota County] department marketable to attract and retain talent and also more equitable to those aspiring for promotional opportunities as part of succession planning,” the memo explained.

As a result of the negotiations, the memo said, the “one-year agreement includes a market pay equity raise for each classification. In addition, employees who move through the step plan receive a step/raise on their anniversary date.”

Law Insider explains that a step increase is “an increase from one pay rate to the next higher rate within the established salary range for the class or position.”

A chart included in the memo showed the following pay increase ranges for specific job classifications:

  • Firefighter/paramedic — 4% to 8.7%.
  • Lieutenant — 5% to 10%.
  • Captain — 10%.
  • Battalion chief — 5% to 10%.

The memo also noted that the total increase to base wage for employees at the top step is as follows:

  • Firefighter/paramedic — 8.5%.
  • Lieutenant — 10%.
  • Captain — 10%.
  • Battalion chief — 10%.

The memo emphasized that no lump sums would be paid out.