Webster Groves fire fighters, represented by International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665, have filed two grievances against the city over recent changes to the way fire department hourly salaries are calculated and the city’s military leave policy.
On Aug. 18, the city of Webster Groves announced a change to the way fire department salaries are calculated. The new formula, which went effect Aug. 28, results in lower hourly pay for some fire fighters. The city contends that under the previous formula, fire department personnel were overpaid $136,244, while 21 fire department personnel were underpaid by $21,143. Those figures represent a two-year period, starting July 2019, though the formula has been in place for many years.
Local 2665 and two former city leaders – former Human Resources Specialist Dawn Cole and former Finance Director Joan Jadali – say the previous formula for determining hourly rates for fire department personnel was not in error and in fact is a formula commonly used by the majority of municipalities in St. Louis County.
“By changing this, and the manner in which it was done, it violates the current contract in place between the city and the Webster Groves fire fighters of the IAFF Local 2665,” union representative John Youngblood said in a written statement to the Webster-Kirkwood Times.
Youngblood said the union presented alternative formulas for calculating wages during contract negotiations, but the city elected to use the long-standing practice already in place.
“Now the city has arbitrarily changed this formula without consulting the Joint Labor Management Team, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement,” Youngblood said.
The union filed a grievance on Aug. 18, the same day the change to the salary formula was announced and is requesting arbitration since the city has denied the items listed in the grievance.
MILITARY LEAVE CHANGED
A second grievance was filed against the city on Aug. 23, relating to a change in the military leave policy for fire fighters. The grievance was filed by a member of the city’s fire department who is being deployed overseas.
The full military leave benefit, prior to being reduced, allowed employees of Webster Groves to have their military pay supplemented by the city for up to six months in an amount not to exceed their regular city pay. The benefit was approved by the previous city manager in 2016.
“The union was never notified of the city’s desire to amend the military leave policy, and we find the city’s decision to amend this policy impudent and appalling,” Youngblood said.