Jacksonville Fire Fighters Protect Pension and Save City Money
May 14, 2013 – A positive pension reform agreement has been reached in
Jacksonville, Florida, between the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund and
the City of Jacksonville, thanks to Jacksonville Local 122 leadership and
steadfast efforts to ensure benefits are protected and proper procedure is
“Led by Local 122 President Randy Wyse, the Jacksonville Association of Fire
Fighters team never wavered from its multi-discipline approach – lobbying
elected officials, keeping the public informed and building strategic
relationships,” says IAFF 12th District Vice President Larry Osborne.
“Throughout the long process, they were fully engaged and stayed on task, and
that’s what ultimately brought about this victory.”
“It was a long fight, but we got the job done,” says Local 122 President Wyse.
“Our goals were, in accordance with the 30-year agreement reached more than a
decade ago, for the City to negotiate any changes to the pension with the
Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees and to protect our
existing benefits. We accomplished both of those goals.”
The new agreement will save the City of Jacksonville $1.1 billion over the next
30 years while maintaining the level of benefits for fire fighters and police
officers. As part of the agreement, the City will gradually reduce its
contributions from 7.75 percent to 7 percent.
Current fire and police employees will eventually pay more into the pension, but
only after the City grants employees a 3 percent raise, which makes up for the
pay cut they took in 2010. Going forward, pension contribution increases will
coincide with future raises with 50 percent going to the pension and 50 percent
to the member. Pension contributions will cap for current employees at 9
“The added benefit here is that the City will have an incentive to give wage
increases and current employees will not see a drop in their salaries because
contributions will only occur after the raises,” says Wyse.
New hires will pay more into the pension from the beginning. Other limitations
were also imposed regarding how long new hires must work to receive their full
retirement benefits and what percentage of their salary they will receive upon
The history of this fight can be traced back to 1992 when the Fund Board of
Trustees sued the City for failing to make mandatory contributions and misusing
state premium tax revenues, among other things. After many years of disputes,
the end result was a 30-year contract that will expire on September 30, 2030.
The nuts and bolts of the contract requires the City to negotiate all future
alterations to the pension plan with the Fund. In addition, for the next 30
years, benefits cannot be lowered, only increased.
However, in 2009, then-Mayor John Peyton claimed the City could not afford to
continue to contribute long tern to the police and fire pension at the current
rate and met with Local 122 to negotiate pensions. The mayor cited the Florida
state statute that makes pensions a mandatory subject of bargaining. Local 22
refused, maintaining that the 30-year contract obligates the City to negotiate
with the Fund Board of Trustees.
“The City would not listen, so that forced our hand. We filed a lawsuit in state
court for the City’s failure to adhere to the 30-year agreement,” explains Wyse.
It was also around this time that Local 122 launched its “Truth About Pensions”
web site. “This site was
essential in getting our message out to the public and helped ensure that our
side of the story was covered by the media with better accuracy,” says Local 122
Public Relations Director Mark Treglio.
The City relented and opened pension negotiations in 2010. An agreement was
nearly reached, but it was not approved by the Jacksonville City Council before
Peyton termed out and Jacksonville elected a new mayor, Alvin Brown, in July
“We were back to square one because Mayor Brown did not agree with Peyton’s plan
and wanted to negotiate with us on the pension,” says Wyse. Local 122, once
again, told the City administration it must negotiate with the Fund.
Jacksonville fire fighters filed a lawsuit against the City in federal court for
not following the 30-year contract. This time, an agreement was finally reached.