Colorado Springs City Council to Vote on Collective Bargaining Ballot Item, Mayor Suthers Leads Opposition

By Swanson, Conrad | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), July 23, 2018 | Go to article overview

Colorado Springs City Council to Vote on Collective Bargaining Ballot Item, Mayor Suthers Leads Opposition


Swanson, Conrad, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


Holding true to a promise their president made this spring, the Colorado Springs City Council will vote next month whether to place a collective bargaining question on next year’s ballot for city firefighters.

Whether a majority of the council will support it is another issue, though. Council President Richard Skorman promised the Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 5, in May that the council would at least vote on the measure.

John Roy, a political action liaison for Local 5, appealed to the council Monday, asking for support. One council member chimed in to back Roy and the notion of placing a collective bargaining question on the April ballot.

More council members spoke out against the move. Mayor John Suthers made a rare appearance at Monday’s meeting and urged the council to deny Local 5 its request.

Collective bargaining status would enable Local 5 to negotiate for higher pay, Roy said. It also would allow the union to negotiate with the city for better benefits and schedules for the firefighters.

Local 5 President Dave Noblitt couldn’t attend Monday but has said the firefighters have been paid below the national average for years and continue to accrue thousands of hours of mandatory overtime each year.

But Suthers argued that collective bargaining would entrench the city in a confrontational negotiation process with the union each year and would favor firefighters to the detriment of other employees.

“Granting collective bargaining to firefighters but not police officers, utility linemen, city foresters and many others would be fundamentally unfair, and it would also create a slippery slope that history shows… results in an entire city workforce being unionized,” Suthers said.

Roy disagreed, saying Local 5 approached the council seeking collaboration, not confrontation. The union could petition onto the ballot but instead hopes to coordinate with the city for a mutually beneficial arrangement

Even with collective bargaining status, firefighters couldn’t strike for raises because state law prohibits public safety employees from walking off the job during labor disputes.

The union seeks to use nonbinding arbitration between the city and a neutral party. Roy said this form of negotiation would enable the city and union to appeal to an objective third party if an agreement cannot be reached. …

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