News - December 8, 2010

Fire union weighs 'last, best' contract offer

by Sandy Brundage

The Menlo Park Firefighters Association has until Wednesday, Dec. 8, to decide whether to accept the fire protection district's "last, best, and final" offer of contributing $1,500 per month to each employee's health plan.

The district sent a letter on Nov. 29 to union leadership saying it would double the amount put toward health benefits in hopes of coaxing the union back to the bargaining table. In August the firefighters rejected an offer of $750 per month.

The firefighters have been working without a contract for almost three years. Negotiations first ground to a halt in 2009 after Menlo Park Firefighters Association Local 2400 filed a grievance with the state's Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) alleging unfair labor practices.

Contract negotiations between the district and Menlo Park Firefighters Association Local 2400 broke down again in October after union representatives asked to meet with the district's board members individually after refusing to meet with designated negotiators. The board declined the request, saying in a response letter that it would violate state law.

"I understand the need and desire to settle this, we share that," said Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. "But just as they selected their negotiators, the board also gets to do that. We have to address the economic issues; we have to return to the negotiation table. The answer is at the table."

The district's firefighters also filed a lawsuit in July for overtime pay for time spent picking up equipment before and after their shifts start. Last year the district decided to replace salaries with hourly wages, leading to the overtime dispute.

John Wurdinger, union president, said the association is currently "clarifying some issues" with the latest offer.


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