The same day Salt Lake police rejected a labor agreement with the city, local fire-fighters who have been without a contract for nearly three weeks say they will take Salt Lake City to court in a dispute over pay raises.
The International Firefighters Association local 1645 will sue the city for not honoring apprentice agreements the union says legally bind the city to raises for some employees hired last year, union head Charlie Quick said Tuesday.The union, which three weeks after the fiscal year has still not reached a contract agreement with the city, will more than likely vote Wednesday night to bring their case to court, Quick said.
Tuesday, the Salt Lake Police Association voted down a contract agreement tentatively reached with the city. Officers rejected the pact, citing lack of pay raises Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis has refused to grant in an austere budget year.
That leaves only one of three city employee unions, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, working under a signed contract. The union, which represents clerical and labor workers in the city, signed an agreement July 6.
DePaulis is attending the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, but his chief of staff, Mike Zuhl, said "we are not surprised about this action, and the city will have to defend it's position."
City Councilman W.M. "Willie" Stoler, a 34-year veteran of the Salt Lake police force, said recent union unrest is a sign of a "lack of trust" between the city and its employees.
Additionally, Stoler said although officers and firefighters likely will continue to do their jobs, no contracts translate into a tense relationship, "and when it explodes and over what it explodes, heaven only knows."
Apprentice firefighters, or those with less than four years experience, signed an agreement last year guaranteeing them pay raises effective July 13, Quick said.
Those who maintain "certain levels of expertise" for the first four years of their employment are guaranteed merit pay increases, Quick said. Increases in pay increments would be up to $410 yearly, according to city records.
But DePaulis froze merit increases across the board this year.
Firefighters will demand in their suit, which because it may involve federal labor laws may be filed in federal court, that the city honor the apprentice agreements for apprentices hired July 13, 1987, Quick said.
Roulan Cottrell, the director of the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training for the U.S. Department of Labor, reviewed the agreement and said the city is bound to honor the apprentice pay increase.
Salt Lake police soundly rejected a contract with the city Tuesday, with 80 percent of eligible officers voting against the one-year proposal.
Just 20 percent of the 124 officers casting ballots OK'd the proposal that has no provisions for cost-of-living allowances, said Elden Tanner, Salt Lake Police Association chief.
Two-hundred-fourteen officers were eligible to cast a ballot in the vote that ran from 8 a.m. Monday through 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The vote "means we'll work without a contract until the next negotiations" in June, Tanner said.
The collective bargaining agreement covers the nearly 300 officers in both east and west divisions.
Officers said they will continue to patrol the streets, just without the security of a contract.
"There's not a policeman out there who will do less" without a contract, said one officer.
While the 38-page contract offers no provisions for pay increases, it contains a clause for reopening negotiations in February, when the city tabulates receipts from franchise and other taxes.
If the money was available, officers could have received pay increases.
"From my standpoint, I don't see any further negotiations occurring," said Bob Adams, a negotiator for the city. But he added, "The mayor called me back after June 30 (when the contract expired) to resolve the issues. I thought we resolved them."