City Council challenged for putting ‘price tag on safety’
By ED FINKELSTEIN
In an overwhelming show of support for Firefighters Local 2665 challenging Webster Groves unilaterally cancelling their union contract, almost 200 firefighters from around the region showed up at the city council meeting to protest the council’s illegal action.
In their strong show of unity, several firefighters speaking at the meeting made it clear that said, City Council “wrongfully terminated the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
To make their point, as the Labor Tribune reported last week, the union filed suit against the city two weeks ago charging that they 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.
‘GIVES LIE TO CITY CHARGES’
This gives lie to the city’s charge that “good faith” negotiations could progress no further and therefore gave them the right to terminate the agreement.
“At no time did the shop feel that the city had any willingness to compromise. Compromise, that’s the collective part of collective bargaining,” said former Local 2665 shop steward Mike Peters.
The union’s contract has an Evergreen Clause designed to keep a contract in place while negotiations continue. The contract covers 33 of the departments 38 personnel. It expired in June, 2022.
THE ISSUE: SAFETY
The issue impacts the safety of citizens and firefighters alike, the union stressed.
“The city has put a price tag on public safety,” said Local 2665 firefighter John Youngblood, 4th District vice president.
The city wants to drop to 10 firefighters on duty, while national safety codes actually call for 12 to ensure proper firefighting capability (minimum staffing in the contract called for four firefighters 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 their number one priority.
“The city wants to run the fire engines and ambulance with only 10 people total, and that will seriously impact public safety” added Mark Woolbright, International Firefighters Second District vice president. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends four firefighters on each apparatus.