MFPD union employees renew call to negotiate agreement

Directors vote unanimously to adopt changes to EMoPP

By Mike Anthony

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted last week to approve myriad changes to the district’s employee manual, but a union representative again requested that negotiations begin on a collective-bargaining agreement.

International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665 Executive Vice President Brad Peters addressed the board Feb. 19, saying the district’s union employees want to begin negotiations to reach a collective-bargaining agreement with the Board of Directors.

Last month, MFPD Capt. Nick Fahs, who serves as Local 2665 7th District vice president, addressed the board, saying union employees would like to “… open some discussions to maybe come together and form a collective-bargaining agreement that everybody would be happy with. We have nothing earth-shattering on the table. We think it would be a pleasant process.”

But board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman told Fahs the board prefers to use the district’s Employee Manual of Policies and Procedures, or EMoPP, as the presiding document for union employees, who are welcome to bring written proposals to the board that can be discussed in open session.

MFPD union employees have not operated under a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, since Dec. 31, 2002. In September 2007, the board voted unanimously to adopt the EMoPP.

The employee manual covers such policies and procedures as probation, personnel reduction, termination, salaries, benefits, minimum manning requirements, unscheduled overtime, trade time, promotional guidelines, grievances, educational benefits, leaves of absence, sick leave, workers’ compensation and discipline.

Peters told the board, “… Part of my duties at 2665 is to oversee collective bargaining and collective-bargaining agreements within the shops that we represent, Mehlville being one of those shops. I understand that our shop steward came forward in the January meeting requesting some collective-bargaining negotiations and it’s of the opinion of this board that the EMoPP from this district is the collective-bargaining agreement you would like to work under.

“We have a difference of opinion in the local of that, that we would like a separate agreement of a collective-bargaining agreement … So you should have a letter in your possession that I mailed last week to you guys. I want to know if you had any questions on that letter or when I should expect a response back from that.”

Stegman said, “Well, we actually just got it tonight … So we really haven’t had a chance to discuss it, but we will and we should have a response shortly.”

Peters said, “Excellent. Thank you.”

In December, the board and administration proposed myriad changes to the EMoPP. Stegman told the Call the changes were “minor.”

In a Jan. 3 letter to Chief Brian Hendricks, Local 2665 Shop Steward Michael Yemm wrote, “… While I completely understand that the district has the right to establish safe and effective policies and procedures, some of the items in the employee manual seem to be better placed into a collective-bargaining agreement.

“Therefore, I would like to respectfully request that we begin the process of entering into negotiations to establish a collective-bargaining agreement between the Mehlville Fire Protection District and the Mehlville Firefighters Shop of IAFF Local 2665 …”

MFPD employees formerly were members of IAFF 1889, but merged with Local 2665 in September 2011.

MFPD union employees’ last MOU was negotiated by the Board of Directors and Local 1889. That three-year pact, approved in 1999, covered 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Under that pact, district employees were given increases in their base salaries ranging from 15.48 percent to 19.15 percent over the three years.

The proposed EMoPP changes were on the board’s Feb. 5 agenda, but no representatives of Local 2665 attended the meeting.

Regarding the proposed EMoPP changes, board Chairman Aaron Hilmer said last week, “… We’ve had some changes sitting out there for a couple months … We’ve never heard anything back, so I make a motion we approve the EMoPP changes.”

Hilmer’s motion was seconded by board Secretary Ed Ryan and unanimously approved.

In his Feb. 12 letter, Peters cited a “Missouri Supreme Court decision of November 2012, which declared public-sector employers have an affirmative duty under Article I, Section 29 of the Constitution of the state of Missouri to collectively bargain in good faith with their employees with the intent to reach an agreement.”

Peters proposed both sides meet May 1 to begin negotiations.

“The bargaining unit will prepare a comprehensive contract proposal that it would like to present to the district at that time to begin the negotiation process,” he wrote. “At that time, we would also like to set a time line in order to ensure ample time for dialogue as the district proceeds through its annual budget process, with regards to items included in the collective-bargaining agreement that may have an impact on the district’s FY (fiscal year) 2015 budget.”