firefighters union likely headed into court battle following grievance
continue to spar during contract negotiations
Myers KOKOMO – Professional
Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396 and the city of Kokomo likely are
moving headlong into a court saga, after city officials denied a
grievance filed by the union relating to collective bargaining efforts.
The Kokomo Board of
Public Works last week denied the union’s grievance, saying in a
findings-of-fact document no articles or sections in the previous
agreement between the two sides were violated.
On Nov. 1, the
firefighters’ union filed a grievance against the city of Kokomo
relating specifically to the city’s denial of a request for arbitration.
The grievance, first
disclosed by Local 396 President Chris Frazier, stated, “the city has
failed and refused to engage in collective bargaining in good faith.”
Notably, the grievance
also claimed the city “has refused the Union’s submission to
arbitration of items at impasse despite past precedent requiring such
“We’ll probably end up
filing for a hearing with the Board of Works,” said Frazier, in
response to the most recent decision. “We’ll have to go and sit down
and present evidence and do that kind of thing.”
“It’s going to have to go
through a big court battle,” he added later.
City ordinance lays out a
45-day negotiating window during which arbitration can be requested.
The two sides began contract negotiations on June 7, according to
But Frazier believes 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.
“We’ve already been
through this before, and it cost the city a lot of money. It cost our
union a lot of money,” he said.
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
“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
Effectively, the union
asked, in the grievance report, the city be required to enter into
“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,”
stated the grievance’s requested settlement.
Kokomo Board of Public
Works President Randy McKay said in a text message Friday he could not
comment on the case while it is active.
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 firefighters union
that alleged the city violated a contractual agreement.
The case is currently
with an arbitrator and a ruling is expected soon, according to Frazier.
Effectively, the board
denied the grievance on the grounds the Kokomo Fire Department had
acted within the contract’s parameters when calling for assistance from
volunteer fire departments.
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
Local 396’s settlement
request was “mandatory staffing of Tanker 1 at all times.”
Notably, though, it was
determined 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 Board of Public Works ruled KFD did
not violate its contract.
George Myers can be reached at
765-454-8585, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter