The Central Florida Oversight District Board of Supervisors has delayed voting on the Reedy Creek Fire Department’s new employment contract and reopened negotiations, AP News reports.
Last month, 80% of 185 Reedy Creek Fire Department’s union members voted to approve a new employment contract. Under the new contract, starting pay for firefighters would increase to $65,000 per year, and EMS starting pay would rise from $40,000 to $54,000 per year. Additionally, the department would hire 25 more firefighters and 12 more EMS paramedics in the next six months.
The firefighters have been outspoken proponents for the CFTOD Board and Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to take over the district. Their old contract expired four years ago and they have not been able to negotiate a new one with the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Union president Jon Shirey said, “Up until January of this year, we had gotten zero momentum in moving this thing any closer to being signed. There’s a huge level of relief. We have a level of open communication dialogue that we’ve never experienced before here.” (via WESH)
However, for unknown reasons, the CFTOD Board has failed to approve the firefighters’ new contract. A vote was originally planned for last month’s meeting but didn’t happen. It’s not on the upcoming meeting’s agenda, either.
Board spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said negotiations with the union were ongoing.
“[District Administrator Glen Gilzean Jr.] is actively working with the fire department to finalize a deal that offers a competitive compensation package and gives firefighters the resources they need to protect the public,” Woltornist told AP.
Reedy Creek Fire Department
Reedy Creek Fire District first responders expressed alarm last spring in the wake of Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, stating their lifetime Disney passes and lifelong health insurance were at risk as a result. Union leadership has been in regular dialogue with Gov. DeSantis since, expressing they’re reassured by the governor’s track record with first responders.
Tim Stromsnes, communications director of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117 union, told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this year in the face of the CFTOD takeover “Anything has got to be better than what we currently have. We really hope that this new board will bring the morale up for Reedy Creek [and] will make us an elite emergency services department again. We’ve got our faith in the governor that we’re going to be around and that it’s going to be a better place to work.”
The union has had a rather rocky relationship with Disney, who appointed all five seats on the district’s Board of Supervisors. Their focus is largely on the theme park business and union members allege the Board cares little for actual employees of the District, which includes first responders like firefighters. Fire trucks and rescue units have broken down on multiple occasions, forcing responders to arrive on the scene in SUVs. Staffing has also remained inadequately low. Disney and Reedy Creek have both aggressively denied these claims.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 9B, which enacted the state takeover of the district, at the Reedy Creek Fire Department in February.