Firefighter Contract Negotiations at Impasse

The Town Council learned last week that negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 3160 remained at impasse, with the fire chief saying too much was going on in too short a time period for resolution to be reached at this time.

Town Manager Kevin Smith presented the news to the Council at its meeting Thursday, Jan. 23, a continuation of its budget hearing.

“What has been relayed to me by the negotiating team is that by a 12-11 vote on Monday (Jan. 20), the proposal that was on the table was defeated and the proposal made today – the town made some additional concessions – was also defeated 12-11,” Town Council Chairman John Farrell said. “So we are at impasse.”

“Because negotiations have come to an end, I can divulge what the details were,” Smith said. “The final proposal that was on the table was a one-year contract. It was changing overtime after 48 hours replacement costs only. So callbacks and training would still be paid at the standard 42 (hours). It was a 1.8 percent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). It included all non-monetary language that had been (tentatively approved) in the new contract that had been originally worked out with the fire department, and it also included increases in longevity pay, educational incentives and concurrent pay duty.”

Budget Committee Chairman Chris Melcher asked Smith what was new since Monday’s negotiations and Smith said that on Monday’s vote, the overtime funding for 48 hours was for all overtime, and the second vote was for overtime for 48 hours on just replacement overtime, not callback and training.

“So if you are under 42 hours and are called in for station coverage, etc., you are still paid at the overtime rate of a minimum of two hours,” Farrell said.

“Correct,” Smith said.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said negotiations “were very close. It was going very well. I think unfortunately there were a lot of things going back and forth during the time left to resolve it. I don’t think the (rank and file) was comfortable in coming out and saying, let’s agree to this without looking at the nuts and bolts of it. It was a lot of negotiations within the last couple of weeks and special union meetings and special negotiation meetings. There was a lot going on in a short period of time to try and get this so we could put this on a warrant last night. We didn’t have enough time, people didn’t have enough time to swallow it.”

Earlier in the week, Council Tom Dolan proposed an article that would allow a special town election to be called for a vote on a contract reached after the March election.

“From what I anticipate, I think that they will continue negotiations until March or whenever,” he said. “I haven’t been told that it will go to a mediator at this point. I think they’re close. I think it was too much going on in a short period of time,” O’Brien said.

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