TAMPA (FOX 13) - The head of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2294 tells FOX 13 there was an overwhelming rejection, this week, of a new proposed contract with Hillsborough County.
Of the 950 members, a record 749 voted, rejecting the contract 681 to 68.
“We were disappointed with the results,” said Senior Assistant County Attorney Rudy Haidermota.
The last contract ended in September. A big sticking point was the addition of random drug testing to the new three-year deal.
“We want to ensure a drug-free workplace for all of our employees, in particular with public safety personnel. It's paramount,” Haidermota said.
Recent investigations by the Tampa Bay Times found nearly 50 alcohol and drug-related incidents involving fire rescue employees over the last eight years. The head of the union says random drug testing is not the issue.
“My members are willing to do any drug test that the county asks us to do. That was not the reason this contract was voted 'no,'” said Union President Derrik Ryan. “I believe what you saw the last two days was a vote about the morale issue we have here."
Ryan went as far as to say, morale is so low he believes Chief Dennis Jones has "lost the locker room."
”I would hope we're able to get a deal. It would be premature to say either side will declare an impasse,” Haidermota said.
One thing both sides agree on: The dispute should not affect residents' safety.
“They should not worry one bit about the contact, negotiations, or morale. When that 911 bell rings, we're getting the job done,” said Ryan.