Fire Fighters fight in Webster Groves could impact public employees across Missouri

Publisher Emeritus

FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2665 filed suit against the city of Webster Groves several weeks ago charging that city officials illegally threw out the union contract even though both parties were in serious negotiations.

The outcome of the struggle between Webster Groves fire fighter members of Local 2665 has potentially far reaching consequences for public employees through Missouri, said International Fire Fighters Second District Vice President Mark Woolbright.

The issue is the Evergreeen Clause in the union’s contract which ensures a contract is extended until a new agreement is reached. However, Webster Groves unilaterally ended the fire fighters’ contract months ago when the city claimed negotiations stalled despite the union’s willingness to continue talks.

“…if the city gets away with ignoring the Evergreen Clause designed to keep an agreement in place while negotiations continue, it would be undetermined what could happen going forward with other local government agencies throughout the state,” Woolbright stressed.

Woolbright emphasized that “The Missouri constitution gives public employees the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their of their own choosing. If cities are allowed to unilaterally change this, it could drastically change most everything for public employees.”

He noted that in a similar effort in a nearby fire protection district a few years ago, the courts upheld the Evergreen Clause on a challenge.

The differences between the union and the city hinge on manning, with the city insisting on less than four fire fighters on a truck. “For safety and efficiency reasons it is preferable to have five or up to six on a ladder truck, but less than four does not meet NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) minimum staffing standards,” Woolbright said.

The city wants to drop to 10 fire fighters on duty, while NFPA safety codes actually call for 12 to ensure proper fire fighting capability (minimum staffing in the contract called for four fire fighters on each of the city’s two fire trucks, two paramedics on an ambulance, and one battalion chief).

In a show of good faith, the union had made numerous proposals to give the city flexibility in reducing overtime costs, which the city claimed was its No. 1 priority.

The union filed suit against the city several weeks ago charging that it illegally threw out the union contract even though both parties were in serious negotiations. In fact, the union had already agreed to 10 of the 12 key items the city asked for even though they had reservations about some of them, but in good faith agreed to those changes.

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