City files unfair labor practice charge against fire union

The City of Evanston has filed unfair labor practice charges against firefighters union Local 742 arguing that the city is not obligated to negotiate with the union about staffing levels.

The city claims that the state public labor relations act recognizes that an employer "has no duty to bargain over matters of inherent managerial policy" including "standards of services, and its organizational structure."

The union has sought to have an arbitrator decide the staffing level issue, but the city argues that an arbitrator "has absolutely no authority to rule on a proposal regarding the total number of fire personnel employed by the city."

The city says the union’s demand would "lock the city into a standard of service and thereby force the city to maintain a certain number of firefighters per shift."

The complaint says the city has been willing to discuss temporary limits on layoffs it has consistently rejected attempts to impose such limitations permanently through the union contract.

The city also claims that the union has engaged in an unfair labor practice by taking its case direct to the mayor and aldermen, rather than negotiating exclusively with the city’s management bargaining team.

The city earlier this year reached agreement with unions representing police and most other city workers on contracts that contain no pay hike this year and increases of roughly 2.5 percent for next year, several unpaid holidays and an increase in employee-paid health insurance premiums.

The firefighters reportedly had agreed to roughly similar terms, but in addition insisted on being able to negotiate over staffing levels.

After the city rejected that, the union took the issue to arbitration and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz announced plans to layoff three firefighters at the end of this month.

The union late last month filed unfair labor practice charges of its own against the city, saying the layoffs amounted to an unfair labor practice.

The president of the union local, Brian Scott, called the city’ decision to file the unfair labor charges "an defensive and reactionary move" and said the city’s claims have no merit.

Scott says there are several precedents in state labor law that say staffing is a mandatory subject of bargaining.

And he said that once the talks reached an impasse and the union filed a request for arbitration on Feb. 25, union members were free to contact the aldermen directly about the issues.

Related stories

Fire union wants arbitrator to set staffing

Firefighters say city is ‘unfair’

City sends layoff notices to firefighters

Firefighters hope to reverse layoffs Monday

Related link

The city’s unfair labor practice complaint (.pdf)

Editors’ Picks