Council Rejects Fire Contract; What's Next?

By: WOWT Email
By: WOWT Email

Things looked promising for some sort of an agreement when an amendment was passed 5-2. The amendment would have ended the contract sooner and it would have provoked future discussion on moving firefighters to the civilian health care plan.

Those changes didn't have a majority of support however. The amendment failed 3-4. Pete Festersen, Chris Jerram and Tom Mulligan were 'Yes' votes. Ben Gray, Garry Gernandt, Jean Stothert and Franklin Thompson were 'No' votes.

Stothert and Thompson had supported the amendment but changed their vote to the negative because they believed the contract as a whole did not give enough to the taxpayers.

But the two biggest supporters of the original contract Gernandt and Gray voted "No" because of the two changes. They wanted it "As Is."

Gray said the council isn't in position to negotiate. "I'm not willing to risk an unfair labor practice that could cost taxpayers money."

The fire union said all along it already negotiated a fair contract with the mayor and would not support any council changes.

So what now?

"They seem to take it for granted," said Fire Union President Steve LeClair, "that they can come in at the 11 1/2 hour and say, 'Well -- if you just did this one little thing' I'm sorry, that one little thing --- everyone of those one little things was presented at the table and was rejected at the negotiating table and that's the proper place for those discussions."

Two of the council members who approved the failed contract with a couple of changes remain optimistic that the city can avoid a lawsuit.

Pete Festersen: "I continue to believe that if it was one year shorter we could have a lot of council support for the contract so we can all move on and have some agreement."

Chris Jerram: "What I hope happens is the mayor and fire leadership get back to the table."

Here are the options: the council could reconsider the contract at its next meeting but there may not be enough votes for that. The fire union could take a look at the amendments and consider another vote but that seems unlikely, at best.

The mayor could reintroduce the original contract and try his luck again -- but it would need three consecutive readings which would take 3-weeks at a minimum. That's important because of the CIR deadline.

October 1 is when the new changes begin for the state labor court -- where public employees settle differences with their employers.

After October 1, any new agreements would follow the new law where more than wages are considered in the comparisons.

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