By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
The Ottumwa Daily Courier
---- — OTTUMWA — A months-long battle to secure a contract between the city and the firefighter union has finally been settled.
This week, the Ottumwa City Council approved the three-year contract between the city and the firefighter union, the Ottumwa Association of Professional Firefighters Local 395, International Association of Firefighters (AFL-CIO-CIC).
The contract will go into effect July 1 and last through June 30, 2016. It includes a 2 percent sliding scale the first year and a 2 percent across-the-board base salary increase in years two and three. The contract will also increase EMS pay.
Gary Doud, president of the union, said the union had been pushing hard to get the 2 percent sliding scale for all three years of the contract, though they were only able to obtain it for one. The sliding scale, he said, would allow the department to distribute pay raises where they feel is necessary, meaning raises would depend on job description, rank and education.
“That was to get us closer to other fire departments in comparable groups,” he said. “It took seven months to bargain, and out of those seven months, we didn’t ask for any extra money. All we were wanting to get out of the whole deal was a sliding scale.”
All other city bargaining unit contracts (library, municipal, police and public works) have been settled.
“The important thing is they agreed, along with our other five unions, to allow us to tweak the health insurance deductibles in years two and three of the contract so everyone’s in line,” said City Attorney Joni Keith.
Councilman Brian Morgan said the agreement is a “good example of concessions being made on both sides.”
Following mediation, the proposed agreement was taken to the council in January, which was rejected by the councilmen 5-0, and the city’s October proposal was re-offered.
“This contract I don’t think should have taken over seven months to finish up, for the issues that were out there,” Doud said. “And we didn’t have a whole lot of issues out there.”
On the city side of the table sat lawyer Mike Galloway, Ottumwa City Attorney Joni Keith and Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller. The union side contained Doud, union negotiator Jack Reed and Ottumwa Fire Capt. Pat Short.
Monday was the last chance for approval of the contract. Otherwise it would have proceeded to arbitration on Thursday.
“We did give up the years of sliding scale we were pushing hard for,” Doud said. “This did not need to drag out that long.”