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City, firefighters' union refine their proposals

City, firefighters' union refine their proposals

July 12th, 2018 by Karl Richter in Texarkana News

Texarkana, Texas, officials and firefighters' union representatives gather for a third round of contract negotiations Wednesday, July 11, 2018, at City Hall. Pictured are, from left, Human Resources Executive Director Jim Powell; attorney Bettye Lynn; Deputy City Manager Kyle Dooley; union member Paul Lauck; Scott Robertson, local president; Joe Tellez, district representative; and members Eric McCasland and Scott Daniel.

Photo by Karl Richter /Texarkana Gazette.

The city of Texarkana, Texas, came to the table with a more detailed proposal in the third round of contract negotiations with the local firefighters' union.

In a meeting Wednesday at City Hall, the city team proposed contract language regarding a variety of policy matters, fleshing out a list of topics it had raised for discussion during the previous meeting. The union also refined its previous contract proposal, simplifying one section and adding another.

According to established ground rules, it was the last collective bargaining session when raising new subjects was allowed. Through the three meetings so far, both sides have made preliminary proposals and discussion has been minimal, limited for the most part to clarification. Negotiations are expected to intensify in a pair of two-day sessions scheduled for later this month and August.

Highlights of the city's proposals include:

  • Management rights—The city will retain all management rights not relinquished in the collective bargaining agreement. These include work scheduling, hiring and firing and establishing mutual aid agreements with other cities' fire departments, among others.
  • Non-discrimination—Neither the city nor the union may discriminate based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin or disability status. Membership in the union will be voluntary.
  • Promotions—The department chief may appoint at his discretion two assistant chiefs, three battalion chiefs and three captains to be deputy fire marshals.
  • Discipline—The chief may offer an employee a temporary suspension of any length up to 90 days. For temporary suspensions of nine days or less, the chief may permit the employee to give up vacation time rather than serving the suspension time off work.
  • Hours—The chief has exclusive authority to determine firefighters' hours and scheduling.

The union distilled into one sentence a lengthy section on existing conditions that included a "past practices" clause the city had complained was too broad.

"All rights, privileges, and working conditions enjoyed by the employees at the present time which are not included in this Agreement shall remain in full force, unchanged and unaffected in any manner, during the term of this Agreement unless changed by mutual consent," the union's proposal reads.

The union also added a discipline provision that defines the conditions under which a firefighter may be reassigned to a 40-hour work week during disciplinary proceedings, as well as stipulating that firefighters involved in investigations are entitled to representation. The union agrees with the city on allowing forfeiture of vacation time in lieu of time off for suspensions.

The union has proposed pay raises, but the topic did not come up Wednesday.

Attending the meeting were city Human Resources Executive Director Jim Powell; attorney Bettye Lynn; Deputy City Manager Kyle Dooley; union member Paul Lauk; Scott Robertson, local president; Joe Tellez, district representative; and members Eric McCasland and Scott Daniel.

The next negotiation sessions are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 26; 8:30 a.m. July 27; 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16; and 8:30 a.m. Aug. 17. All the meetings are open to the public.

Both sides have agreed not to communicate with the press except through joint written statements. No such statement yet has been issued.

On Twitter: @RealKarlRichter

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