(Jackson, Wyo.) - County commissioners and town councilors sat down with representatives from the new firefighters’ union in a three-hour meeting on Tuesday to provide feedback on the union’s proposed contract. The meeting was the follow-up to a preliminary session on Feb. 29, in which the firefighters’ union -- International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5067 -- presented a 23-page collective bargaining agreement. Approximately 35 people attended the collective bargaining session, which was open to the public and held in the Teton County Commissioner’s Chambers. In the Tuesday, March 8, meeting, Teton County Commissioners’ Administrator Alyssa Watkins and Town Administrator Bob McLaurin provided an overview of a joint county-town counter proposal, as well as a detailed written response. Prepared by staff, the response and proposed collective bargaining agreement can be found online at the Teton County website, linked to the meeting agenda.
“I believe the process is going well,” Watkins said. “We appreciate the
opportunity to have the dialogue and want to support our fire/EMS
professionals who work in service to the community.”
During the meeting, participants avoided debating the collective bargaining
agreement proposals, but rather focused on whether there was clarity
regarding the meaning and content of the staff-developed counter proposal.
According to a release issued by Teton County, a significant amount of time
was spent explaining how Teton County calculates rates of pay, vacation and
Teton County stated in a release that it updated its salary plan based on
the recommendation of a compensation study performed by consultants in the
fall of 2014. An update in 2015 included adjustments to wages to ensure
employees county-wide earn 5 percent above market rates to help offset the
higher cost of living inherent to working in Jackson Hole.
While considering a change to the fire/EMS scheduling model, staff noted
that fire/EMS shift personnel’s rates of pay changed as scheduling models
changed. The effective wage rate would go up or down in response to changes
in work cycles.
County administrators therefore hired a second consulting firm, which
specializes in fire, EMS and police standards. The firm helped the county
revise policies to take into consideration the unusual circumstances of
fire/EMS personnel, federal laws and standards for the industry, and
current above market wages. New hourly rates were developed within the
existing salary plan using standards set by
the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for firefighter employees.
"Negotiations on the 8th were a bit long and drawn out, with the lengthy
explanations from the administrators. Unfortunately we were only able to
make it through half of their agenda. That being said we do understand that
Fire/EMS is complicated and somewhat complex entity. Our job of providing
emergency services and the department structure do not easily fit into the
norm and are really not comparable to the other departments. One of our
primary reasons for organizing in the first place was, for the operational
level employees at Fire/EMS, to have a seat and a voice at the table with
the elected," said John Tobey, President of the local firefighters Union.
The next collective bargaining meeting will allow time for further
discussion of salaries and other points of difference between the union and
the government representatives. That meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on
Thursday, March 17.
According to a shared agreement, the involved parties have until
midnight of March 29 to complete their negotiations, or the contracts will
go to arbitration.
Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chair Barbara Allen said that
the tone of negotiations so far had been positive, with all parties acting
in good faith and with respect. She hoped that the spirit of cooperation
would continue as the collective bargaining meetings progress.
“It is incumbent upon us to ensure a well-managed, fiscally prudent
organization that appropriately meets the public safety and service needs
of the community,” Allen said. “We also desire to be an employer of choice
that retains an engaged workforce and attracts well-qualified talent.”
"Our goal is to come a mutually agreeable solution to provide the best
possible public safety to the people of Teton County and the Town of
Jackson. We look forward to a continued productive engagement with the Town
and County to reach that goal." said Tobey.