Dispute over time off threatens 2016 Firefighters’ Fair

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River County Firefighters’ Fair may not happen next spring, according to the head of the firefighters’ union.

The problem, he said, is that fair organizers might not be able to get the time off they need to put on the 10-day event. which was scheduled for March 11-20. County Fire Chief John King says the union contract approved earlier this year provides time off for fair activities, with conditions.

International Association of Firefighters Local 2201 President John O’Connor posted on his facebook page a note entitled, “Firefighters’ Fair in Jeopardy.”

“For the first time since its founding in 1980, the Indian River County Firefighters Fair may not go on in 2016. Due to Fire Chief John King’s interpretation of the union contract, it is virtually impossible for fair organizers and workers to arrange time off to put on the event,” O’Connor wrote. “We will need the public’s support and involvement to change this.”

King responded to the post Wednesday via email, saying, “The Board of County Commissioners included 70 standbys annually in the collective bargaining agreement exclusively for the Firefighters Fair. As long as the employees have equal qualifications, the standbys are not being withheld.”

Those 70 “standbys” are to be divided among all the committee chairs and dozens of firefighters who work at the fair during planning, setup, break down and operations.

O’Connor and Fair Chairman Wayne Howard released the following statement Wednesday afternoon, “Simply put, we cannot run the firefighters fair with the current restrictions that are in place. It makes it virtually impossible to arrange shift exchanges for the committee chairs that are essential for fair operations.”

Howard was recently denied a request related to fair business, according to email correspondence, due to lack of “compelling justification.”

One-third of the fair proceeds goes into the County’s general fund and the rest goes to various local charities, including scholarships and the burn fund, which helps fire victims with medical and other expenses.

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