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Cape council expected to vote on union contracts today

By Staff | Feb 6, 2012

Cape Coral City Council is expected to consider two union contract agreements today, one for police, one for fire personnel.

The local fire union membership voted last week in favor of ratifying the tentative, collective bargaining agreement with the city of Cape Coral.

Cape Coral Professional Firefighters Local 2424 started voting on Tuesday and wrapped up Friday. Though he declined to report the exact results, union President Brendan Fonock said an “overwhelming majority” showed support.

“It wasn’t even close,” he said Friday of the results.

Under the agreement, union members will take a 2 percent pay cut and will raise their pension contribution by 3 percent, up to 10 percent. They agreed to a reduction of two paid holidays and leave time that can be accrued, too.

The concessions will provide an estimated annual savings of $1.6 million.

“I don’t know if anyone’s going to be happy about taking less home to run their household,” Fonock said, adding the cuts are significant. “On the same note, I think they recognize the difficulty the city’s had with the economy.”

He said the reality is the deal was in the best interest of the citizens.

“We hope that we can build on this relationship and see Cape Coral prosper,” Fonock said.

The agreement applies to rank and file employees and battalion chiefs.

In August, the union membership rejected a tentative agreement that had called for a 3 percent pay cut and a 2 percent pension contribution increase. Rank and file voted 166-0 to reject, while the battalion chiefs voted 11-0.

Fonock explained that the initial agreement was shot down for a number of reasons, including an “oppressive approach to bargaining” by the former city administration. Changes have since been made to city staff and city council.

“The firefighters were open to concessions all the time,” Fonock said, adding that another issue was there was no end in sight as far as cuts being made.

“I think it had to do with an array of things,” he said. “But I think there’s a better relationship with the city council and the new administration.”

In a prepared statement released Friday, union leadership thanked the city’s reconfigured negotiating team for “the professionalism and respect they showed when both parties could finally sit down and find a common ground.”

Union leaders and the city tentatively agreed to the terms on Dec. 28.

Fonock noted that the city, however, should not get used to concessions.

“In the future, we feel it is imperative for city council to find other means of revenue to balance the city’s budget, instead of balancing it off the backs of city employees,” he wrote in the statement.

“These concessions come after our pay has been frozen over the past three years,” Fonock added at one point in the statement.

The fire union joins the Fraternal Order of Police Cape Coral Lodge 33 in ratifying its agreement. The police union membership voted Jan. 6 to ratify. They also agreed to a 2 percent pay cut and 3 percent pension increase.

The police union gave up two days of holiday pay and created a lower entry step level for officers, too. Annual savings are expected to be $1.6 million.