Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Polk County's paramedics are voting this week on joining a union.

There is a lot of uncertainity right now among paramedics/EMTs, as the future of the county's Public Safety Department is being discussed among management types in Bartow.

There is talk of even transferring responsibility of the department, which also includes firefighters, to the Sheriff's Office. The Polk County Fire Department has union representation; the PCSO does not.

The idea of unionization among local public safety employees has grown over the past several years. In Lakeland, police officers voted in favour of a union three years ago, followed by sergeants and lieutenants last year. Also last year, Lakeland firefighters approved unionization and are currently negotiating with the city on a contract.

In many cases, representation by a union is the only real way for rank-and-file workers to protect their futures, especially under the current situation. Although Polk County is among the fastest growing counties in Florida, pay for first responders remains uncompetitive compared with nearby agencies.


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