Fire officers win reprieve from council Panel OKs provisions allowing lieutenants, captains in new units

Final vote set for July 29

Lawmakers change course, voting against Gary labor initiative

July 16, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

The County Council last night came to the defense of beleaguered public employees for the first time in months, a signal that its members think the Gary administration's personnel reforms may be too aggressive.

The council, criticized by labor leaders recently for cleaving to the Republican administration's cost-cutting labor policy, was poised to formally ban Anne Arundel Fire Department captains and lieutenants from the union that has represented them for 26 years.

Instead, council members approved unanimously four amendments written by Councilman William C. Mulford II, an Annapolis Republican, that would allow the 100 displaced officers to form new bargaining units. Anne Arundel's 27 fire captains and 73 lieutenants would not be allowed to organize in the same bargaining unit, but would be allowed union representation.

The Gary administration has argued that county law prohibits Fire Department captains and lieutenants from belonging to the same union as the employees they manage. Officials also have said that removing the officers would save the county more than $1 million in overtime pay. Labor leaders have said the administration's real motive is to diminish union power.

Last night, administration officials endorsed the amendments. Giving the Fire Department officers the right to organize, now prohibited by county code, essentially would be an extension of the spring collective bargaining sessions.

"That's where this started," said county attorney Phillip F. Scheibe. "It was never our intention to weaken organized labor."

Reluctant labor leaders described the change as a small step in the right direction.

"I guess they were listening and somebody started thinking about constitutional issues," said LeRoy A. Wilkison, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1563, which still would lose a quarter of its membership with the officers' removal. "I guess they didn't want to go to court. But they've still taken away their right to organize together. If that isn't union busting, I don't know what is."

L The council is expected to vote on the amended bill July 29.

Mulford cleared his amendments with County Executive John G. Gary before introducing them last night.

In other matters, Pasadena Democrat Thomas W. Redmond Sr. withdrew his proposal to place a measure on the November ballot that would allow council members three consecutive terms in office.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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