City of Topeka, firefighter union members remain at impasse on a new contract

City, local firefighters union members still at impasse on new contract
City, local firefighters union members still at impasse on new contract(City of Topeka)
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:17 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) The City of Topeka reports it was not able to make progress with members of International Association of Firefighters, Local 83 (IAFF) Monday afternoon to mediate the items still left in their collective bargaining agreement.

City Manager Brent Trout reported Monday evening, “The City extended a fair and equitable offer that showed movement on multiple open issues. I was disappointed that IAFF was unwilling to respond today with any substantive counteroffers and that the parties were unable to reach an agreement.”

But, the IAFF says the City was the party with no interest in negotiating.

“The Union entered today’s mediation ready to reach a fair and reasonable agreement,” said Aaron Freeman, President of the IAFF Local #83, “After several exchanges this afternoon, the Union provided a rationale and sensible proposal to resolve all pending issues which the City quickly rejected without further discussion or counteroffer.”

Both parties have proposed wage increases but can’t agree on the terms of the pay hikes for 2023 and 2024. The City says its wage proposals are in line with the City’s plan of dedicated just over three-fourths of its 2022 proposed budget to public safety, most of which is paid in personnel costs. The other open items up for negotiation include IAFF members’ unexcused sick leave.

The next step is a fact-finding hearing under PEERA before a neutral fact-finder. If no agreement is reached after that phase, the Topeka governing body will decide the remaining issues. This is the same stage that the City’s negotiations are at with the Fraternal Order of Police, who are represented by the same lead negotiator as IAFF.

Under PEERA, public employees cannot strike. Both sides in the fire contract impasse will continue to operate under the existing contract until either an agreement is reached, or a unilateral contract is implemented by the governing body.

The City replies is still hopeful that an agreement can be reached. The IAFF wishes the same.

“While the City closed the door on today’s conversation, the Union is determined to work with City leaders to resolve the impasse,” said Freeman, “Negotiations of this magnitude are never easy and there is still work to do.”

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