Salt Lake firefighters were expected to file suit against the city in 3rd District Court Monday, demanding increased wages for 11 apprentice firefighters not given raises by Mayor Palmer DePaulis, a union official said.
"There is nothing to preclude us from filing suit," said International Firefighters Association local 1645 President Charlie Quick.The Salt Lake City attorney's office denied an earlier claim for the wages and City Attorney Roger Cutler said Monday, "We don't think the claim is meritorious."
The union contends the city is violating an apprenticeship agreement signed by the city last year guaranteeing first-year apprentices a $410 monthly pay raise.
Second- and third-year employees are also demanding increases under the agreement, which the union says guarantees the firefighter $51 and $52 monthly increases, respectively. The agreement took affect July 13, Quick said.
The wages demanded by firefighters would cost taxpayers $67,716 annually.
The National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 established the use of apprenticeship agreements "to safeguard the welfare of of apprentices" in occupations ranging from accordion makers to welders.
But the city attorney's office, in a letter denying the claims written to union attorney Phillip Dyer, said the city is not legally bound by the act or the agreements themselves.
The city can "suspend, cancel or terminate" the agreements for good cause, according to the letter to Dyer.
In fact, the city attorney's office said the city would consider dismantling the program, writing in the letter to Dyer, "this office may recommend to the city that the apprenticeship program be terminated rather than litigate the issues."
But Rulon Cottrell, director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training said the agreement can only be scuttled upon the approval of both the city and the Fire Department, who signed the agreements.
Cottrell said that similar claims by city unions have held up under scrutiny of the courts.
The city also maintains that under state statute, it cannot be bound to honoring salary agreements that extend into another fiscal year if money is not available to fund them, the city attorney's office said.
"All salary adjustments are subject to appropriations" under the Utah Constitution, the attorney's office wrote.