Though he won’t discuss specifics, Mayor Matt Brown has sounded off on the ongoing contract dispute between City Hall and the London Professional Fire Fighters Association.
The LPFFA has accused the City of deleting emails from a former Deputy Fire Chief related to the negotiation process despite an arbitrator ordering them to be turned over.
A release from the LPFFA on Tuesday suggests that this contravenes a records retention by-law which states that all correspondence related to arbitration be kept on file for 20 years.
President of the LPFFA Jason Timlick said that the process is frustrating because there is no will on the City’s end to negotiate a deal.
“This is a council and a mayor that ran on transparency, and I can’t get any answers.”
According to the LPFFA, this summer the two sides went back to the bargaining table. The association says they put together a proposal that provided over $5-million in concessions and “was carefully constructed and presented at mediation to provide taxpayers real savings, and eliminate the costs of continuing the arbitration process.”
The City then came back with “extraordinary breakthroughs” that Timlick said he was unable to agree to.
When asked what the City’s response was when challenged on the deletion of the emails, Timlick said, “I believe at the public hearing, their lawyer said, ‘Well you didn’t ask for them before we deleted them. So they’re gone.’”
Timlick also said supporting material, emails, and correspondence relating to an expert report over a job evaluation from the City was also requested by the LPFFA, and the arbitrator, but nothing has been turned over.
Now, the City is challenging the arbitrator’s ruling to hand over the documents, wiping out eight days of negotiations between now and early next year, for a judicial review of the arbitrator’s decision.
Timlick believes that it will take until the end of 2017 to finish interest arbitration hearings, and it will take another 6-12 months to hear the arbitrator’s award. If the City decides to review that award, it could tack on another year, taking negotiations into 2019.
Meanwhile, the arbitrator can only award contracts up until the end of 2014, which means the LPFFA will have to re-enter negotiations for the past 21 months.
“It’s very frustrating.”
At city hall Tuesday, Mayor Matt Brown said he expects these types of conversations to be dealt with “in a respectful, professional way.”
“They can be frustrating times, but we have to remember that when you’re part way through a process, what you want to do is keep going and remember that the focus is that end goal which is a settlement,” said Brown. “And we’ll get there.”
Brown added that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to discuss the negotiations in public.
Timlick likened the situation to one that London Police are dealing with, and their inability to get answers from the City over their budget request.
“It sounds very familiar. I just don’t get answers. It feels like I’m getting the run around. I don’t know who’s making the decisions. I know that the Director of Human Resources was the lead person on their team at mediation, and I don’t know if she’s the one making the decision, I don’t know if she has directions to city council, I don’t know what city council is being told, I don’t know what the mayor knows. I just don’t know,” he said.