Letters: Mediation Fails to Resolve Fire Contracts

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Efforts to reach new labor contracts with the City’s Fire Unions failed after the two sides met with a mediator last Monday.  The leadership of IAFF Local 856 (representing rank and file), IAFF Local 3820 (representing fire supervisors) and the City laid out their final proposals in an attempt to avoid the process of Fact Finding.  This will extend what has already become a year-long attempt to reach new long-term contracts. Issues between the Department and the Unions have been essentially resolved. The remaining issues are primarily between the Unions and the Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA) concerning compensation and healthcare concessions.

Historically, since the inception of the city’s proposal and adoption of the Yarger-Decker pay scale, cost of living adjustments have been consistently applied to the City’s Unions.  This year the City has been reluctant to follow this decades-old practice. Jeff Duval, President of Local 856, has stated repeatedly, “The Fire Fighters in the City are not looking for more than anyone else, we simply want to be treated the same as the other groups. The cost of living doesn’t change based upon what City department you work for.”  

The whole purpose of the Yarger-Decker pay scale that the City proposed nearly 20 years ago, was to equalize pay increases across the City Departments. The concept was that it would streamline negotiations by indexing cost of living increases to the CPI. Throughout the past six years both Fire Unions have made concessions on healthcare, overtime, and accepted COLA increases less than the actual cost of living. Now that the City’s economy is improving, the Unions are eager to attain a contract that is fair and equitable.

“These negotiations have been unique.  Issues between our Union and the Department have not been contentious,” President Jim Michael of the Fire Supervisors said. “In the past twenty years once one group has agreed to a COLA that has been the benchmark for the rest of the unions. We are bewildered why the BMA would not apply this historical template in these negotiations.”

The next step in the process will be a presentation of supporting facts in early April. Although it is an extension of a lengthy process, both unions look forward to this step in order to present ample documentation in support of their positions on unresolved issues. 

“We feel the historical perspective of labor negotiations in the City of Manchester will support our positions on COLA’s and other issues,” Duval said.  

“We have certainly been told repeatedly in previous negotiations that COLA’s must be across the board to maintain the city’s pay scale matrix,” added Michael.

Submitted on behalf of members of IAFF Locals 856 & 3820

About Carol Robidoux 5548 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.