HomeLocalVillage, KB Unions Reach Three-Year Deal

Village, KB Unions Reach Three-Year Deal

Ending months of acrimonious labor talks, Key Biscayne’s unionized workers reached tentative deals with Village officials Wednesday for largely “status quo” contracts that essentially retain current terms. The agreements, covering police, fire and many civilian workers, must still be ratified by the rank-and-file and the Village Council, and will mean a wage freeze in base pay for the first year. 

Time-in-service pay increases will continue, however. And if inflation picks up in 2021, the contracts will allow for automatic cost-of-living increases as before. The firefighters’ pay system will also restore time-in-service payments for workers hitting 15 and 20 years of service, steps that had been deleted in previous negotiations and were priorities for the union in the discussions, according to labor leaders. 

The bargaining was “as ugly as it ever could have been,” said interim Village Manager Charles Press of Wednesday’s session with police and civil service unions. 

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“We can be thankful the previous manager left. That changed the way we handle our executive sessions. Everything changed for the better,” Press said. 

Press appeared to be referring to the collective bargaining protocol under former manager Andrea Agha. Both Press, then the police chief, and Eric Lang, the fire chief, were excluded from some of the Village Council’s closed-door strategy sessions, a change from previous practice. Last year, the Village demanded many concessions. Agha left office Jan. 1. 

Union leaders agreed with Press’ assessment and said the new attitude was welcome. 

“The fact that I was able to sit in a room and have a real conversation with the manager was an amazing breakthrough for us,” said Dan Feeney, the president of the Key Biscayne Professional Firefighters Union Local 3638. 

“Did we get everything? No. But we’re pretty happy.”

Brett Schneider, the Village’s chief labor negotiator, pressed unions to ratify the agreements swiftly so that the Council can ratify them at its March 9th meeting. 

The contract costs are already factored into the current $33.5 million budget, according to Village officials. The overall police budget is $6.7 million and the overall fire department budget is $7.1 million, including managers not covered by union contracts. About 124 of the Village’s 183 full and part-time workers are covered by the contracts, according to documents supplied by the Village. 

If approved, the agreements would expire Sept. 30, 2023.


Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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