SPRINGFIELD TWP.: Part-time firefighters and trustees remain at an impasse following a year of contract negotiations and a fact-finder’s report released this month that examined 13 issues on which they disagree.
The 18 part-time firefighters, who formed their own bargaining unit separate from the township’s full-time firefighters, voted to accept the report following a State Employees Relations Board hearing. Union members were surprised when trustees rejected the report, said Todd Hurd, a firefighter/paramedic with the township since 1995.
“We weren’t completely happy with the fact-finder’s report, but for the good of the township, we agreed to compromise,” he said.
Trustee Dean Young said most of the items addressed in the report trustees rejected boils down to one fundamental issue: management’s right to control the number of hours part-timers work each year.
“Management must have the right to establish the number of hours, both minimum and maximum, to effectively provide services and stay within the budget. The fact-finder just skirted over that and left things the way they are,” Young said Friday.
Trustees can’t ignore the issue and effectively provide service, Young said.
“If we did otherwise, I would be abrogating my responsibility to the taxpayers,” he said.
Trustees are concerned the township might be required to offer insurance coverage to part-time employees under the Affordable Health Care Act if they can’t regulate the hours they work. Many of the part-timers are full-time firefighters for other communities and have insurance with them, Young said.
“On the flip side, we have to establish a certain number of hours we can count on and not have people call off [a shift] at the last minute because they have to go to their other jobs,” he said.
When trustees rejected the report, it left no next step for the union, Hurd said.
“Part-time employees do not have the right to go into binding arbitration. That means once the fact-finder report is accepted or rejected, there is no other place left to go,” he said.
The union offered to enter into arbitration to sort out the differences, Hurd said, but trustees didn’t want to go that route, either.
On advice of counsel, Hurd said, he could not discuss individual items addressed in the report while negotiations are under way, such as language that relates to opening negotiations in the middle of a contract and layoff and call-back language.
Hurd said that although firefighters requested 3 percent raises for each of the next three years, they agreed to accept the fact-finder’s recommendations of a 1.5 percent increase in wages retroactive to January 2011, with increases of 2 percent for the next two years.
Full-time firefighters in Springfield are standing by their part-time brethren, said firefighter/paramedic Shawn DeWolf, head of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3040.
“We support them 100 percent because of the incredible job they do for us every day,” DeWolf said.
Township trustees and firefighters have agreed to return to the bargaining table to try to iron out the differences.
“We still hope to arrive at an amicable agreement,” Young said, in a sentiment Hurd echoed.
“I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement,” he said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.