Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ketchum Firefighters’ Union initiates litigation

Express Staff Writer

Lawyers for Ketchum's full-time firefighters union filed a suit on April 18 in Blaine County 5th District Court against the city of Ketchum, following a failure of negotiations and mediation over an employment contract.

The last round of discussions was held in September 2009.

"The city has refused to return to the table ever since," said James Piotrowski, attorney for the firefighters. "The city refused to engage in collective bargaining. That's in violation of their statutory duty to bargain in good faith with the firefighters."

Parties agreed on most issues during negotiations, but several contract provisions remained unresolved. In that case Idaho law states that unresolved issues must be taken up by a fact-finding commission representing both sides and by a mediator.

The commission released its recommendations last April, and the firefighters agreed to them. The city, however, disgreed with the findings on four issues and maintained that it is not obligated to follow those recommendations.

City Administrator Gary Marks said Tuesday that he was not aware of the lawsuit, so could not comment on its allegations. He did said, however, that the city negotiated in good faith.

"We fulfilled our legal obligations," he said. "We are in complete and full compliance with state law."

Marks said he looks forward to working with the firefighters—and all city staff—on contract and employment issues. But, he said, the city was not able to accommodate all the firefighters' requests, "particularly in a time of economic distress for our community and our nation in general."

Once the city is served with the complaint, a discovery process will follow.

"We're in the very early phases of litigation," Piotrowski said.

Rebecca Meany:

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