After months of trying to secure a new contract, the Professional Firefighters Union of Kokomo may take the city to court. The union started negotiating terms of a contract with the city in June, but has yet to reach an agreement.
Chris Frazier is the president of the union and an 18-year veteran of the department. He says tensions keep building.
“We have had a very continuous relationship with the city’s administration,” Frazier says. “It has had its ups and downs and right now we are definitely down in that relationship.”
Frazier says the union wanted the matter to go into arbitration, where a third party would resolve the dispute. But the city denied that request. In response, the union filed a grievance against the city, which was also denied.
Beth Copeland is the corporation council for the city of Kokomo. She says it was hard to break down which requests are most important to the union because they issued 80 proposals. Though Copeland says one they debated in length was an increase in wages.
“The city proposed to President Frazier in the presence of his attorney a raise of 2 percent a year for the next three years,” Copeland says. “We were told that that would be insufficient, that the union wanted a 5 percent raise in response to that.”
Frazier says the fire department’s budget and staff has taken major hits over the years.
“We are just seeing a downturn in the number of people we have, the number of trucks we operate and the service we provide to the city,” he says.
It’s unclear when the matter could go to court or what will happen if a contract isn’t finalized by the end of the year.