Iowa fire union challenges promotion of public safety officers to firefighters

Cedar Falls Fire Local 1366 president Scott Dix said the union will legally challenge the move of four public safety officers to full-time positions at the department

By Thomas Nelson 
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Four public safety officers are being moved to full-time positions at the fire department, and the Cedar Falls Firefighters Association says the transfer violates state civil service law.

Scott Dix, Cedar Falls Fire Local 1366 president, announced the move in a press release Wednesday. Dix said the union will legally challenge the move.

Cedar Falls Fire Chief John Bostwick said he learned of the press release from the media. “If we’re negotiating, it’s not negotiating in good faith for them to do that,” Bostwick said.

The press release is full of half-truths, he said.

The four PSOs eventually will be in supervisory positions, but not before they’ve been trained by the shift leaders and the two most senior battalion chiefs.

“The people that we’re sending down there, those are the ones that they (shift leaders) wanted to send down there,” Bostwick said. “Those are the people that they thought were important to have down there.”

Three of the PSOs are combat veterans who served in the United States Marines Corps.

“They are highly trained people. We’re moving them up,” Bostwick said.

This move was directed by the Cedar Falls City Council, said Mayor Jim Brown.

Brown also noted a recent increase in firefighter union grievances.

“It’s difficult when there’s so much obstructionism by the union leadership to throw in grievances, six to seven grievances in the last number of months. We haven’t had six to seven grievances in the last five to 10 years,” Brown said.

Those grievances have taken up city staff time and taxpayer money, Brown said.

But Dix says the union is simply following procedures set forth in the collective bargaining agreement.

“The city has taken opportunities to maybe operate outside that, and we are trying to address them as they come forth. We have more of them right now because we feel that they’ve been doing more of that,” Dix said.

Three of the firefighters who left now work in Urbandale, a combination fire department staffed by career and part-time firefighters.

“With all those individuals unfortunately leaving, part of the early concerns were the safety and the training, yet they’re going to a department that virtually is mirrored by Cedar Falls,” Brown said.

One of the firefighters who left did not leave on good terms, Bostwick said. Josh Lux was asked to resign or be terminated.

According to city documents, Lux had eight violations that would have led to his termination had he not resigned. Lux was said to have falsified documents relating to an incident on the University of Northern Iowa campus and was insubordinate, according to those documents.

But Dix disputes that characterization.

“Josh Lux did nothing wrong,” Dix said. “The city’s trying to disgrace the guy who took a job somewhere else.”

Dix said he would be more than willing to sit down with the city labor-management committee.

“It’s the only way that an employee can actually speak to management and criticize any program legally and not get written up for it,” Dix said. “We would love to talk to them (the city). We would love to have a public forum where we could say anything and they could say anything, present evidence and challenge them on issues without reprisal.”

Five firefighters who recently left and the four PSO transfers will not impact the city’s ability to fight fires, Bostwick said.

“We have people that are ready to go, any moment any day,” he said. “We have well-trained, well-qualified people.”

Copyright 2018 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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