Ill. firefighters' union sued by city in ambulance dispute
The city of Mattoon filed a lawsuit against the union over an arbitration award that gave the city the power to remove ambulances from the fire department
By FireRescue1 Staff
MATTOON, Ill. — A city is suing its firefighters' union over a recent arbitration ruling that allowed city officials to remove ambulances from the department.
Journal Gazette reported that a petition was filed by the city of Mattoon against Mattoon Firefighters Local 691 over claims that the union is “not complying” with the ambulance removals, according to union president Bart Owen.
"The city asserts that the union is not complying with the arbitration because an agreement has not been reached on the removal of the ambulances," Owen said.
The arbitration ruling was made after the union filed a grievance over the city’s plans to eliminate the department’s ambulance services to save money.
The city said the ambulance services are unnecessary because two other private ambulance services operate in Mattoon, but the union said their ambulances generate revenue and provide essential services for the city.
Arbitrator George Fitzsimmons’ ruling said the city is authorized to "eliminate, relocate, transfer or subcontract work,” and added that the city is required to comply with the Substitutes Act.
"The Substitutes Act only prevents employers from using unqualified personnel outside the bargaining unit as temporary or permanent substitutes for bargaining unit firefighters. The union has failed to prove that the employer violated a specific provision of the contract," Fitzsimmons said.
Owen described the city’s recent lawsuit as petty and unnecessary, because a contract bargaining meeting was already scheduled.
A successor contract has been in negotiation since Jan. 1, and Owen said the union offered to reduce staff or cut expenses to save money for the city, but believes the best option is to continue their ambulance services.
"Our union has made no successor contract offers that do not include the ambulance service that we feel the citizens of Mattoon deserve. We refuse to voluntarily give up on something we believe in passionately," Owen said.