City reaches agreement with fire union
Last updated 11/7/2018 at Noon
The Mukilteo City Council approved a new collective bargaining agreement between the city and the local fire union on Monday, but only after lengthy discussion on the CBA and other fire department costs.
Council President Steve Schmalz asked for the item to be pulled from the consent agenda, which typically passes as approved without much, if any, discussion.
The recommended motion was to approve a new three-year CBA with the International Association of Firefighters Local 3482 (IAFF) effective Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021. The agreement would give 2.25 percent wage increases in 2019 and 2021, and a 3 percent increase in 2020.
The current agreement expires Dec. 31, and members of IAFF 3482 had voted on the CBA, according to the agenda packet.
Schmalz wasn’t pleased with the CBA as presented.
“Looking this over, I understand there has to be collective bargaining between the city and the union, but I can’t support this,” he said. “I don’t believe the city, on behalf of its residents or council, negotiated in good faith.”
Schmalz said the council had directed Mayor Jennifer Gregerson “on certain terms” in the discussion with the firefighters union, but what was presented at Monday’s meeting didn’t match what they as a council had discussed previously.
Schmalz felt it was another example of Gregerson not following council direction, saying her actions show why the council was correct in its decision to seek outside legal counsel for Gregerson’s actions.
“This to me, again, illustrates not a single situation, but a pattern of not listening to the council,” he said. “So as much as I support the negotiation, I would like to have it in good faith, and this is not what I remember agreeing (to), so I’m not going to support this.”
Schmalz said he asked Gregerson to remove herself from negotiations since she has accepted donations from the union in the past, and that it’s a conflict of interest. He would have preferred Management Services Director Steve Edin leading negotiations, as he is not an elected official.
Gregerson told Schmalz she disagreed with his premise, and encouraged him to reach out to Edin, who was also a part of the negotiation process.
Councilmember Anna Rohrbough said she understood Schmalz’s concerns, and that the council’s original proposal was “manipulated” by the mayor and the labor attorney, but thinks the proposal was fair.
Councilmember Scott Whelpley sided with Schmalz, feeling they as a council needed to take a step back and discuss the CBA further, as they would be discussing costs within the fire department during its 2019 budget discussion.
Whelpley felt there were too many pay raises within the department for the amount of calls it receives, saying some firefighters receive more money that department heads, due to overtime pay.
Councilmember Richard Emery felt the agreement before them matched what they had discussed during a previous executive session, and was confused as to why some of his fellow councilmembers were upset with the proposal. Councilmember Sarah Kneller agreed with Emery.
Emery made a motion to approve the CBA as presented, which didn’t get a second. The item was then pushed to the end of the meeting, to be discussed after hearing from Fire Chief Chris Alexander about his proposed budget changes.
Whelpley had raised concerns regarding overtime pay, but Alexander said as they are now fully staffed, and overtime pay wouldn’t be a big concern moving forward.
Alexander also brought up a few possible scenarios regarding staffing the two fire stations, one of which included closing Fire Station 24 in Old Town on 5th Street, and using only Fire Station 25 in Harbour Pointe. That was just for informational purposes, no decision was made, and it appears unlikely that would happen in the near future.
After Alexander’s presentation, Rohrbough moved to approve the CBA, and it passed 5-2 with Schmalz and Whelpley voting against it.
Whelpley said he would have rather seen 2 percent pay increases across the three years, rather than a total increase of 7.5 percent over the three years.
Alexander and the council also discussed potentially ending interlocal agreements with other nearby departments for a ladder truck, a battalion chief and a medical service officer, to save money.
The council will make decisions on that during final budget talks, which continue Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.