KRKO, KKXA, EverettPost.com
Firefighters Local 46 filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the City of Everett on January 18, 2011. The December 2, 2011 ruling of examiner Katrina Boedecker in that case affirmed the complaint against the City leaving the City potentially liable for paying a settlement for unearned overtime hours estimated to cost over $2 million dollars and requiring the City to rebargain with the union with regard to how overtime and other staffing decisions are handled. The City appealed the decision to the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission and won.
The City was struggling to make budget in 2010 and identified overtime hours as one area where savings could be achieved. The decision to flag and reduce overtime hours triggered other City decisions including contracting out some services like fire fighting and ambulance work, and directing the fire department to work with SNOPAC 911 dispatch to adjust their protocols for initiating response. The union asserted the City violated its collective bargaining agreement because the City discussed the budgeting issues directly with the Fire Chief and his command staff instead of talking directly to the union leadership and engaging in bargaining for the changes the City identified to meet its budget. The union claim further asserted violations of labor law.
The three commissioner panel which heard the case ruled that the collective bargaining agreement between the City and the union was followed by the City because the City did not reduce the staffing levels below 25 firefighters on-duty at all times as proscribed in the collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, the City maintained at least three firefighters on each fire truck, and two firefighters on each aid unit along with a battalion chief for each fire platoon.
In all other allegations made by the union, the panel affirmed the City of Everett's decisions as those of an employer making necessary decisions in the normal course of business. The panel further affirmed the union effectively "waived its right" to negotiate any of the City's decisions because the City adhered to the baseline staffing requirements identified in the collective bargaining agreement.