TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At Thursday’s Tampa City Council session, local leaders voted to award a historic raise to the city’s union workers, or go back to the negotiating table. With the new contracts, set for October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2025 are approved, Tampa’s city law enforcement officers, firefighters, and transit and sanitation workers will all get nearly 20% higher salaries over the next three years.

Tampa city officials said the higher pay, a 9.5% increase this year when the new contract starts, followed by a 4.5% in each of the two proceeding years, are a way to show city workers they are supported amidst current economic challenges. Over the three years of the new contracts, union workers affected by the bargaining agreements would receive an overall 18.5% salary increase over the contract time.

“We can’t achieve excellence as a city without excellent employees. 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,” Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement on July 21. “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.”

According to statements from city government, in a “departure from the past,” the contract negotiations were completed before the city budget was approved.

“The men and women of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1464 work tirelessly to serve the people of Tampa and make this the best city in America, and we appreciate the care and attention Mayor Jane Castor and her administration put into these contract negotiations,” ATU Local 1464 President Steve Simon said in the previously released statement. “We are grateful they recognize our sacrifices and hard work on behalf of the people of Tampa.”’

In previous years, negotiations continued following budget approval, leading to changes. This year, the negotiations completed before, meaning the budget will already reflect the salary and wage needs of the unions once it is approved.

While official vote tallies were not available for all of the unions awaiting final vote in Council, three tentative contracts were.

The Council Agenda for Thursday included documents for tentative employment contracts affecting the Tampa Police Benevolence Association’s Lieutenants Bargaining unit, the Tampa PBA contract for all Police Officers, Detectives, Corporals, School Resources Officers, Police Aircraft Pilots, Sergeants, and other positions, and the tentative contract for the Amalgamated Transit Union in Tampa, which covers bargaining for employees in departments such as Solid Waste, Parks & Recreation, among others.

“The last few years have been incredibly challenging for law enforcement, and this contract reflects an acknowledgment by the Mayor and City of Tampa of the service and sacrifices that our members have provided and will continue to provide in the future,” Tampa PBA President Darla Portman said in the previously released statement from Tampa.