Firefighters say they’ve reached tentative agreement with UG on contract

During a public hearing tonight on an impasse in contract negotiations between the Unified Government and Firefighters Local 64, an official of the union said they have reached a tentative contract agreement.

Bob Wing, business manager for International Association of Firefighters Local 64, said the tentative agreement was reached with the UG about 12:30 p.m. today.

The tentative agreement next will go to the firefighter members for ratification, and the UG Commission for a vote. Wing will recommend the tentative agreement for approval of the union members.

While there were some firefighters in the audience of the UG meeting, it is likely that there would have been more there had the agreement not been reached earlier today, Wing added.

The UG and firefighters have been without an agreement since 2013, and the only person on the employer side still at the negotiating table since 2013 has been Chief John Paul Jones, Wing said. Changes in the negotiating team may have affected the length of the negotiations.

“It is time we move forward,” Wing said. “I think it’s time we close the chapter on this one. I would ask you only to take the compromises seriously on the outstanding issues that we have come to agreement on, because I’m going to clearly ask the firefighters to take the same position that these are compromises that could be put forward and take us forward to a better department to both serve the citizens of the city that we serve.”

Wing and the UG did not discuss the details of the compromise agreement. Wing said the details will go to the members first for ratification, and could be released with final approval by both sides.

UG Administrator Doug Bach said the Fire Department has a budget of more than $56 million or 16 percent of the UG’s budget, with personnel costs of $46.6 million, or 26 percent of all personnel costs in the UG.

An attorney, Ryan Denk, appearing on behalf of the UG, at the hearing outlined 13 areas that had been issues in the negotiations. The negotiations went through fact-finding and then to the impasse stage. Wing said the 13 areas also went to a public hearing during the fact-finding stage.

Denk went through the issues, discussed both sides’ positions, the fact-finder’s recommendation and management recommendation. The issues included sick leave, medical plan, vacation, overtime, shift exchanges, promotions, pay, and several other items.

On the issue of trading time or shift exchanges, the fact-finder supported the employer’s position of limiting trading imbalance to no more than six shifts, and an employee cannot pay another employee to work his shift. The union did not support a change in the policy.

On the issue of pay, the UG’s position was a 1.5 percent increase on May 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, and a 2 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2017. The union’s position was a 1 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2016; 2 percent increase on July 1, 2016; 2 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2017; and reopen compensation on Jan. 1, 2018.

The fact-finder’s recommendation on pay was that of the employer, with an addition that another pay increase would be added on Jan. 1, 2018, of 2 percent.

There was no information tonight on the actual tentative compromise on the issues reached today.

The fact-finder in his report on Dec. 5 found some issues in favor of the UG, and some in favor of the union. The fact-finder’s report is online at https://www.wycokck.org/uploadedFiles/Departments/Fire/2016-Fact%20Finding%20Report%20December%202016.pdf.

Two residents, the Rev. Jimmie Banks and Joe Vaught, spoke at the public hearing. Banks, who was appointed by the mayor to serve on a public safety task force, said some of the recommendations of the task force about a diverse staff spilled over to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. He said he was hopeful that the agreement would be fair, equitable, and works for the entire community.

Vaught, a former city councilmember and former UG commissioner who is a real estate broker, said people were most concerned about taxes and safety. He said he hoped the commission looks at costs so it can reduce taxes and help the county grow.

More details on the firefighters’ negotiations with the UG are in a video of the public hearing located online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuuZ9rFzlD4.

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