Newberry city officials and the Firefighters of Alachua County IAFF Local 3852 kicked off labor contract negotiations at City Hall on Thursday.
The contract between the city and the union reopens every three to four years. Both parties said that the items being addressed included￼
“The firefighters are looking for pay raises,” said IAFF Local 3852 Executive Board Vice President Zachary Robbins in an interview. “It is something that hasn’t been discussed since 2016. I think it is very important to the community, and any municipality for that matter, to provide benefits and equal wages and to be able to tell your firefighters that you appreciate them when they show up to work.”
The two sides agreed on the guidelines for the negotiation process but reached no further agreements on the first day.
“We agreed on pretty simple things like being nice to one another during future meetings, who is going to be on the negotiating teams for both sides, and scheduling for upcoming meetings,” said Dallas Lee, assistant city manager. “Basically, just ground rules for how this will go.”
During the next couple of months, both sides will take the contract document and edit it with their proposed language. Once finished, each side will send those documents to the other party to review the suggestions.
The hope is to have competitive wages and get the pay closer to the county wage, which is $45,000.
Reducing the amount of mandatory overtime is one of the union’s biggest goals. IAFF Local 3852 Executive Board President Robert Smith explained that most firetrucks have a four-person crew, so if someone doesn’t make a shift, another person must go on mandatory overtime to staff the truck entirely.
The union hopes to negotiate benefits and wage increases to attract more people who might be able to fill in and reduce the amount of mandatory overtime full-time employees take on.
The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for the first week of February.