Tampa set to approve 'historic' 18.5% raise for police, fire, blue collar workers

Frontline workers for the city of Tampa could soon be in for bigger paydays. Union leaders representing Tampa police, Tampa Fire Rescue and other blue collar workers across the city have negotiated historic 18.5% raises over the next three years for their members. 

"It makes me want to put my gun and badge back on. I want a raise like that," said former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. "If you're going to attract talent and keep it, you need to make sure they're paid accordingly."

Dugan, who served with the Tampa Police Department for 31-years, including a three-year run as chief, says he's never seen a pay increase like it. 

Tampa police officer

"It's historic, but we also are seeing some historic costs right now," said Dugan. 

Indeed, the cost of living in the Tampa Bay region has risen dramatically since the start of the pandemic. 

According to the Consumer Price Index, the Tampa Bay region saw an 11.3% jump in the cost of living for the 12-month period ending in May, nearly 3% higher than the national average. 

As substantial as the proposed raises sound, they won't fully cover the inflation increase until the second year of the contracts. 

The raises break down to 9.5% in the first year and 4.5% for both the second and third years of the union contracts. 

If approved, the raises would go to all members of Tampa's Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1464; the International Association of Firefighters Local Union No. 754, and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association. Members of the three unions comprise about two-thirds of the city's entire workforce and include a broad range of backgrounds from code enforcement, emergency responders, fire rescue, law enforcement, parks and recreation, sanitation, and water. 

Tampa mayor and former police chief Jane Castor, who took part in negotiations, says the raises will help the city's critical public works and safety officers keep pace in an increasingly expensive region. 

"We can’t achieve excellence as a city without excellent employees," Castor said in a statement. "Inflation has hit Tampa Bay harder than much of the country, and I felt it was important to stand behind the men and women who serve our residents so well. While many people worked from home through much of the pandemic, City of Tampa employees remained on the front lines, fixing broken pipes, testing our water, collecting our trash and recycling, and saving lives. To keep Tampa resilient, we need to be able to recruit and retain outstanding employees, so this raise is both necessary and well-deserved."

Per their current contract, Tampa police officer salaries range from $60,257 - $97,843. By the third year of the new contract, first-year officers would start at $72,053 and senior officers could earn as much as $116,997. 

Firefighters and EMS, whose salaries range from $48,223 to $134,460, would earn between $57,663 and $160,782 after three years. 

ATU members, some of whom earn as little as $24,648 or as much as $109,824, would see salary ranges rise between $29,473 and $131,324. 

Mayor Castor's office says the city is able to fund the historic raises thanks to an unprecedented $40-million property tax surplus. 

Though ATU and TPBA members have overwhelmingly approved their contracts, IAFF members will vote to ratify theirs next week. The contracts will then need the final approval of Tampa City Council, which will likely come in the next few weeks.