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Firefighters' Union Reaches Contract Deal With Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant speaks on the phone in his office Tuesday.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant speaks on the phone in his office Tuesday.

Oklahoma City and the union representing the city’s firefighters have come to a last-minute agreement on the department’s contract. The International Association of Firefighters Local 157 says accepting the decision saves taxpayers an unnecessary expense.

Several months have passed since an independent arbitration sided with the fire department, but City Hall thought about fighting back, and considered calling a public vote on the union’s contract.

Councilors decided Tuesday morning to accept the arbitration and skip the $100,000 city-wide election, The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports:

City Council members accepted without comment the union’s final position on firefighters’ employment. International Association of Firefighters Local 157 and City Hall had taken every prescribed legal step possible to negotiate a contract before laying the conflict on the table for a third party to pick one or the other. The arbitrator studied the issue, its history and context, and chose the union in July. The two primary points of contention in the conflict were City Hall’s conversion of the emergency dispatch call center to non-union jobs and the elimination of a 15-year-old overtime pay standard. Arbitrator Mark Sherman said city officials made convincing arguments that those changes could eventually result in considerable financial savings, but it was not clear how they would affect the department’s budgetary challenges now.

Fire Chief Keith Bryant said it wasn’t a standoff where one side blinked. He also acknowledged the situation was uncomfortable because of the city’s ongoing budget issues.

“I think it was a mutual type of decision,” Bryant said. “On the side, the union and I were able to come to terms on some staffing issues that were helpful in getting the city to accept the deal. There were a few sideline things that were going on as well. “The staffing issue that the union and I have been working on wasn’t really related to the contract itself. … It ended up that the city will not see the rising costs that they were concerned about,” he said. “It’s not going to be as significant as we thought it could have been. It kind of washes out.”

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