Council rejects deal for firefighters in 5-3 vote

Minorities were excluded from bargaining, some say

October 28, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis city council voted last night to reject a contract that would have given union firefighters additional personal days, money for continued training, bonuses for recruiting firefighters and other benefits.

In a 5-3 vote, the council members opposing the contract said they were concerned that minority firefighters had been excluded from the bargaining process and objected to a clause that would have obligated the city to chip in up to $100,000 for the union's retirement fund.

Three council members voted for the contract, which has been ratified by International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1926, saying it was a fair deal for all parties.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Anne Arundel edition incorrectly reported a vote by the Annapolis city council on Monday night. The council voted to postpone consideration of a proposed new contract with city firefighters belonging to a union; it did not vote down the contract.

The union will continue to operate under its current contract. It was unclear last night whether the city and union would continue to bargain. Union officials could not be reached for comment, and none attended last night's council meeting.

Alderman George O. Kelley Sr., a Democrat from Ward 4, said several members of another union representing black firefighters told him yesterday that they were "outside the process" during the negotiations and were concerned that white firefighters would get bigger raises than their black counterparts.

Kelley said he was concerned that the group could file a lawsuit against the city and asked the council to listen to the concerns of black firefighters should they appear before the council.

Other council members said a contract clause in which the city would contribute up to $100,000 to the union's retirement fund was an ill-conceived plan that did not follow city budget procedures.

"I have not known us to plop extra money into an account," said Alderwoman Sheila M. Tolliver, a Democrat who represents Ward 2.

But supporters of the contract pointed out that the negotiations were open to the public and objections should have been raised earlier.

"I'm inclined to honor the work of the city and the union," said Alderman Josh Cohen, a Democrat from Ward 8.

Firefighters will not get benefits included in the new contract, including an extra three personal days a year and grants to help continue their education, unless the council votes to accept the contract.

No date has been set for a vote.

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