Council Looking for ‘Better Deal’ in Sending Fire Union Contract Back for Discussion

In a move by the City Council seen as strongly pro-taxpayer, a resolution was approved at Monday night’s meeting to have the Firefighter’s Union sit back down with the City and work on a new contract.

The Council has discussed the Superior Police Officers contract and the Fire Contract recently in committee meetings, and apparently hoped that something better could be worked out for the City with the firefighters. That particular contract had been in local negotiations for quite some time, sources said, and ended up going to arbitration. An arbiter ended up siding with the firefighters in that case – sending the contract back to the City with a stamp of approval.

Councillors, however, weren’t so quick to give that same stamp, though it was pointed out that the contract hadn’t been voted down. It was presented by Councillors Leo Robinson and Brian Hatleberg.

“The resolution passed so there was clearly a desire to get a better deal,” said Hatleberg. “We’re not voting the contract down. We’re asking that the two parties sit down and negotiate something different…Personally, I see this as extending an olive branch. I would rather have something before me I’m favorable of that I can vote on. This contract, if it comes before me, I’d have to vote it down. I don’t think the Council wants to do that.”

Robinson said the request was really about protecting the taxpayers.

“All the resolution is asking if if they would go back and have a conversation with Jay Ash to negotiate something better for the taxpayers and residents of the Chelsea,” he said. “We understand the arbiter’s ruling and we’re hoping they would go back and have a conversation and give something to the Council favorable to everybody. That’s what it’s all about.”

Hatleberg said it probably wouldn’t take much to get something they see as better. He said they’re not far, but yet still not there either.

“I don’t think it would take a heck of a lot for me to get to a ‘yes,'” he said. “At this point, different councillor are coming from different points, but I believe it wouldn’t take a lot to get something favorable to us.”

Robinson said the request does send a message to the taxpayers that the Council is watching out.

“This is important for the business owners and the residents of the City to hear, to take note of,” he concluded.

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