After years of back and forth, Fulton firefighters will soon have a contract.
Late on Tuesday evening, City Council members approved Resolution No. 3344 authorizing Mayor Lowe Cannell to sign documents settling litigation and adoption of a collective bargaining agreement with IAFF Local 2945.
In the audience were firefighters and union representatives Scott Peterson and Justin Malone. Malone said they wanted to send a statement rather than make a comment to make sure their points of view were exactly reported.
The statement following the vote said:
"Tonight, the Fulton City Council voted to ratify the contract between the City of Fulton and the Fulton Professional Firefighters Local 2945. The agreement will become final upon approval of the members of Local 2945.
The ratification of this Collective Bargaining Agreement effectively ends the long-standing litigation between the city of Fulton and Local 2945."
It also includes a quote from Joey Mirth, president of Fulton Fire Fighters Local 2945: "I am extremely appreciative of the effort put in from both sides to find agreeable terms to resolve this matter. By agreeing to these terms, Fulton Fire Fighters can continue to focus on their dedicated service to the citizens of Fulton while enjoying the stability of the working conditions enjoyed by having a contract in place."
Local 2945 is the bargaining unit representing full-time employees with the rank of firefighter or engineer working in the city's fire department. Local 2945 is a not-for-profit labor organization.
Fulton firefighters have been without a union contract since 2013.
Negotiations began over a new contract governing terms and conditions for employment in late 2014. Parties included Local 2945 President Christopher M. McLeod and Vice President Todd Gray, as well as Fulton City Administrator Bill Johnson, former Assistant City Administrator Jerry Sorte, Human Resources Director Michelle Maupin and former fire chief Dean Buffington.
A collective bargaining agreement was hammered out in 2017, but the city council rejected it Oct. 10, 2017 citing elements including termination and extended leave policy differences.
The Fulton Professional Firefighters Local 2945 filed a lawsuit Oct. 20, 2017, against the city. The lawsuit claimed the city failed to fairly negotiate contracts, according to documents filed in the 13th Judicial Court. On Dec. 5, 2017, Judge Jeff Harris of the 13th Circuit Court ordered both parties to submit a joint proposed scheduling order.
Last fall, an arbitrated agreement was negotiated, but in February, a majority of city council members voted against the agreement. Mediation continued, and language was debated even on Tuesday morning, hours before the city council's vote.
"This has been a work in progress, even as of this morning," said Bill Johnson, city administrator. "Michelle (Maupin) and I think this (agreement) is a good thing, as we ask you to adopt it."
One discussion addressed "step-up pay," so if a captain is out for a few hours and an engineer takes on those short-term duties, they will be paid the captain's rate for that time period. Previously, they would have perform those duties for at least 24 hours to be paid at the higher rate. Also, if a qualified firefighter takes over the engineer's duties, they will receive step-up pay for that, as well.
From this point, the union is expected to sign the agreement in 14 days, each party will pay their own legal fees, and the lawsuit will be dropped.