December 21, 2014

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Avon, firefighters union still at odds over time off

AVON — Firefighters are asking for more time off and to eliminate the cap on sick leave during collective bargaining negotiations with the city.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4310 rejected a fact-finder’s report last week after a hearing on Nov. 25 between city officials and the union. The fact-finder sided with the union on a number of issues, including eliminating a cap on the accumulation of sick leave, but did not agree to lowering the hours that shift employees work per week or to award them 3 percent pay raises for each year of a proposed three-year contract, as proposed by the union.

According to the report published Wednesday by the State Employee Relations Board, the union emphasized that its goal was to increase time off for shift employees. The union contends that comparable fire departments provide 28 tours of duty off per year, while the city of Avon provides 23.

The union also proposed raising floating holidays from three to four, saying that there has been an increase in the number of emergency runs required of shift employees as the population of the city grows.

The fact-finder sided with the city, however, in an effort to limit costs and maintain adequate staffing levels. The report proposed increasing the tours of duty from four to five off per year but increasing the hours of work per week to 52 hours from 51.7 over a 28-day work period.

The union, however, proposed a 48-hour work week within a 21-day period. The union said lowering the hours worked would lower overtime costs, as well as allow more free time for bargaining unit members.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the city is held to a 53-hour work week, requiring premium pay for overtime hours worked in excess of 212 hours over a 28-day work period, according to a report.

The fact-finder sided with the union on eliminating the cap on the accumulation of sick leave — the report notes that the firefighters union was the only one in Avon to have such a cap — but proposed decreasing the amount of unused sick time that can be cashed in each year.

A spokesperson for the International Association of Fire Fighters did not return a call for comment on the negotiations on Monday.

Sandy Conley, an attorney for the city of Avon, said she was not allowed to comment on the negotiations, but she said, generally, when fact-finder’s reports are rejected, the two sides would go into a conciliation meeting.

The current collective bargaining agreement, which expired Dec. 31, remains in effect.

The fact-finder’s report rejected 3 percent annual increases as sought by the firefighters and instead recommended 2 percent wage increases for each of the three years of the new contract, extending into 2016. The recommendation was made after taking into consideration proposals from both sides.

With a 2 percent wage increase this year, Avon firefighters with one to three years experience would earn $62,128 to $68,873, respectively.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.