Madison firefighters local 311 will not agree to reopen their contract according to Mahlon Mitchell, President of local 311.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has asked for city departments to cut their budgets across the board. To achieve these cuts, she has raised the issue of reopening the contract with the local.
Regarding reopening the contract, Mitchell said “we’re not going to do it. We have a four year deal.” He elaborated on the reasons noting that the raises negotiated were to make up for prior discrepancies. But he also noted that the way the contract was structured allowed the city to save money initially by putting the raises towards the end of the contract period. “We structured it this so that we would actually get the raises at the end. So we can save the city money – we’ve taken our lumps, so to speak. We also have to look out for our members and the people that are actually doing the work.” The share of health insurance paid by the firefighters also increased.
The union is sensitive to the budget crisis. “It’s gotta be tough for municipalities to try to pay for essential services” but Mitchell pointed out that the city had to find ways to fund such services.
To that end Firefighters local 311 has negotiated changes in staffing and other issues with the city. Seven positions devoted to training and investigation were altered and the individuals were returned to firefighting duties, saving the city considerable funds. Mitchell made it clear that he and the union were desirous of having discussions as to how to minimize costs and maximize service. The union’s goal is “having a seat at the table”, says Mitchell, and utilizing the existing collective bargaining process as a means to collectively respond to the twin challenges of the virus and the budget.