Fairfield Fire Union, Town Remain At Odds Over New Contract FAIRFIELD, CT — Though they are separate, the unions representing the Fairfield police officers and firefighters often get lumped together under the umbrella of “public safety.”
So, in light of the recent ratification of a new labor contract between the town and the police union, where do things stand on a contract between the other part of the public safety tandem, the firefighters union, and the town?
Apparently, the two sides are not very close to an agreement.
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The most recent contract between the town and the union expired at the end of June last year, so the union, which has more than 90 members, has been working without a contract. In such cases, the old pact essentially stays in effect.
Bill Tuttle, president of the IAFF Local 1426 (the Fairfield Fire Union), told Patch that the two sides began negotiations months before the expiration of the old contract, but little progress has been made.
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The two main sticking points, according to Tuttle? Agreement over wages and manpower.
“The Town offered us 1.25 percent raises for 4 years (in contrast to more than double what it offered the PD),” Tuttle wrote in an email to Patch. “We are attempting to raise our manpower because we do not comply with OSHA requirements or by NFPA standards. This is a serious health and safety issue.”
The police union’s new three-year contract calls for salary increases of 2.75 percent per year.
“We are happy for the Police Union that they could successfully negotiate a contract they felt best served their members,” Tuttle said. “Our issue is that the Town dragged their feet, deliberately stalled and that they dealt with us in a very underhanded manner. They pushed us off in an effort to settle with other unions in an attempt to weaken our position in arbitration.”
In a statement to Patch, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations, but took issue with Tuttle’s characterization of the town’s position.
“Within the last few months the Town has successfully negotiated union contracts with the Emergency Communications Center, the Nurses, the Supervisors (PETA) and the Police,” Kupchick said. “Unfortunately the Fire Union rejected mediation and opted instead to file for arbitration, which is a time-consuming and expensive process.”
Under the arbitration process, the two sides present positions to an arbitration panel, which then decides between one of the two positions. The arbitrators do not seek a compromise, they choose one side or the other.
“At this time I don’t feel it’s appropriate to respond with details in the middle of ongoing negotiations,” Kupchick continued. “I will only say that it’s unfortunate some statements being made publicly are not completely accurate. I am proud to work with the men and women in the Fairfield Fire Department and value their dedicated service to the town. I remain hopeful the Fire Union and the Town can reach an agreement, however, if those efforts fail, the arbitration process will go forward, which will ultimately result in a contract.”