Collinsville approves delayed firefighters' contract

News-DemocratJanuary 27, 2014 

— The city and its firefighters have negotiated a compromise in the call-in procedure that required a federal mediator last year.

The city council approved a three-year contract for its firefighters at Monday's city council meeting, which will cover last year through 2015. The contract changed the language regarding call-in procedures, which had been the subject of a union grievance last year.

The previous policy was that off-duty firefighters who are called in to cover the station during an emergency would be paid for a minimum of two hours' work at regular pay, regardless of how long they were actually needed at the firehouse.

City leaders tried to amend that policy, which led to a union grievance. In the end, a federal mediator ruled in favor of the firefighters: the policy would have to be negotiated and could not simply be altered at will by the city.

The new contract changes the language so that instead of being paid for a minimum of two hours at regular pay, the firefighters who are called in will be paid for one hour at 1.5 times their pay.

Fire chief Mark Emert said most of the time the called-in firefighters are only needed for an hour or less, unless it is a serious structure fire.

"We believe that the change in the language will save the city $50-60,000 a year in overtime," said City Manager Scott Williams. "We will have to get through the next couple of years to see."

The contract also set a 2-percent pay raise for each year of the three-year contract, and widens the area where firefighters may live. Previously they had to live within 10 miles of their fire station; now they can live up to 30 miles from the main fire house in downtown Collinsville.

Firefighter Kurt Litteken, who heads the firefighter's union, said he was "pleased" with the contract, despite what Williams called "a couple bumps" along the way to a compromise.

The council also pulled a proposed redevelopment agreement with Apex Holdings from the agenda. The city was considering an agreement for Apex Physical Therapy to put a location on North Bluff with reimbursement of 25 percent of their costs up to $250,000 through the tax increment financing district in that area.

Mayor John Miller said that further negotiations on the project will be needed before the council can vote on the agreement.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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