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Source: Kokomo Tribune

Firefighters union, requesting arbitration, files grievance against Kokomo

Local 396: City has failed to bargain in good faith

By George Myers
    
KOKOMO – The Professional Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396 has filed a grievance against the city of Kokomo relating to the two sides’ collective bargaining efforts and the city’s denial of a request for arbitration.

The grievance, first disclosed by Local 396 President Chris Frazier during last week’s Board of Public Works meeting, states that “the city has failed and refused to engage in collective bargaining in good faith.”

Notably, the grievance also claims that the city “has refused the Union’s submission to arbitration of items at impasse despite past precedent requiring such submission.” Frazier did not provide additional details about what specifically has deadlocked negotiations.

Kokomo Corporation Counsel Beth Copeland responded to the grievance with a brief statement.

“The City has received Local 396’s latest grievance. The Board of Public Works and Safety will consider and respond to it in accordance with their collective bargaining agreement,” she wrote in an email. 

City ordinance lays out a 45-day negotiating window during which arbitration can be requested. The two sides began negotiations on June 7, according to Frazier. He noted that the potential contract’s length, usually 3 years, is still to be determined.

But Frazier believes that a previous ruling, made in 2005 in Howard Superior Court I, set a precedent that if both sides agree to further negotiations, the period to enter into arbitration extends past 45 days.

The union was first informed in an email Oct. 25 by attorney David Swider, serving as outside counsel representing the city, that it would not agree to arbitration.

 “We continued negotiating mutually past the 45 days to try to reach an agreement,” said Frazier in an email. “We asked for arbitration as soon as we reached an impasse in negotiations.”

Effectively, the union is asking, in the grievance report, that the city be required to enter into arbitration.

“The city must be ordered to bargain in good faith. The city must be ordered to allow the arbitration of the items at impasse and all other proper relief,” states the grievance’s requested settlement.

The most recent grievance to gain public attention was in late 2016 when the Board of Public Works denied a grievance filed in November by the Professional Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396 that alleged the city violated a contractual agreement.

The union’s grievance was filed on Nov. 14, 2016, following a house fire less than a month earlier that required Kokomo firefighters to call for Harrison and Russiaville volunteer fire departments for water supply.

The union filed a grievance, alleging that, “Calling for outside assistance from Harrison Township F.D. violates … our contractual agreement. Tanker 1 was taken out of service on this day to not pay overtime.

“This is common practice of the KFD administration to take Tanker 1 out of service to avoid overtime costs.”

Local 396’s settlement request was “mandatory staffing of Tanker 1 at all times.”

Notably, though, it was determined that the house fire on Oct. 19 was an “emergency situation.”

Because the section of the contract highlighted in the dispute begins with the wording “Except in an emergency situation…” the BOW ruled that KFD did not violate its contract.

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gpmyerskt.



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