Public input sought for Nov. 13 hearing on fire, police organizations
The city of Derby is considering rescinding a 1987 decision to negotiate with organized employee groups, as negotiations with a police group linger on and firefighters applied to also have their own organization.
“This decision made 25 years ago is not necessarily the best way to operate going forward,” said Kathy Sexton, city manager, who has recommended rescinding the decision. “Today’s city council can change it and should consider whether Derby taxpayers are best served by the current system.”
Public input is being sought on the issue and those who wish to speak to the council are asked to attend the Nov. 13 council meeting. Council meetings are held at city hall, 611 Mulberry Rd., beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Derby is one of 11 cities in the state which allow the meet and confer under the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act, passed in 1971. Derby moved under PEERA in 1987, after employees of the Public Works Department organized under the Service Employees International Union Local 513.
That group disbanded in 1994, but the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 16 became the organization for negotiations by police officers and master police officers in 2005. Sexton said the employees were dissatisfied with department leadership at that time.
Sexton expressed some dissatisfaction on the negotiations with the FOP this year. The meet-and-confer proceedings have been ongoing since March and an agreement is still not hammered out, long past the city’s deadline to set a 2013 budget.
“Extending meet-and-confer proceedings beyond the budget submission date places the city in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul situation with respect to all financial issues,” she wrote in her report to the council. “The budget for a specific purpose or department, such as to enhance pay or benefits, cannot be increased without cutting a program or project already approved by the city council or amending the budget for the ensuing year.”
Steve Bukaty, attorney for the FOP who negotiates with many cities, including Derby, said finalizing contracts routinely happens late in the year. He said the process has been delayed due to the FOP’s efforts to completely overhaul the police department’s pay system into a stair-step process and grievance procedures.
“It is a change that will be better for the city and department,” he said.
He said the FOP is no longer negotiating out of dissatisfaction with department leadership. In addition, it is not an effort by officers who do not want to do their share of the work.
“These are very dedicated police officers,” he said.
The problem most officers place as a top priority is the turnover rate in the department, Butaky said.
“Turnovers cost these departments a lot of money,” he said.
Cities can spend over $30,000 to send a new employee to the Law Enforcement Training Center and then lose them quickly.
“If you pay your people decently and treat them decently, there is not a lot of turnover,” he said.
Issues with a perceived high turnover rate and the benefit of additional training and other opportunities through the International Association of Firefighters has led all eligible employees of the Derby Fire Department to start the process of chartering IAFF Local 4888, according to Carson Chatwell, president of the local.
“The recruiting and retention of talent is key,” he said. “I believe the city and union can work together.”
Higher wages are drawing local firefighters to the Wichita and Sedgwick County departments, he said. Due to Derby’s close proximity, local residents can change jobs and not have to move their families from the community, he said.
He also said the employees are not dissatisfied with department leadership and they see the organization as an opportunity to better improve the department.
“We don’t like to cause problems,” Chatwell said. “We like to fix problems, that is why we are firefighters.”
Chatwell said the charter for Local 4888 was approved Oct. 12 and four days later the city announced its plans to rescind the decision to allow collective bargaining. That has put the process on hold, he said.
Sexton is proposing a staff-wide advisory council to represent all departments with employee concerns. Currently, staff is allowed feedback through surveys, but this would formalize the process and establish a long-term process, she said.
She also would like the police department to be on the same holiday schedule as the rest of city staff and is recommending distributing the cost of that additional day as a one-time payment to all of the FOP members.