Agreement with firefighters snuffed again

FLINT TWP. — A difficult contract with the firefighters’ union hit a another snag when it came before the township Board of Trustees Monday night seeking approval for the second time this month.

First, the board voted down a proposal to opt out of a hard cap health care provision for full-time fire fighters. That would have allowed fire fighters to pay five percent instead of 20 percent of their health care costs.

Trustee Frank Kasle explained that back in September, to comply with a new state statute, the board approved a plan requiring employees to pay five percent of their health care premiums which was accepted by all of its unions except Local 1425 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

That means that firefighters, who have been without a contract since Dec. 2010, fall under a default provision which sets a “hard cap’’ maximum at 20 percent of costs. But the tentative agreement with the firefighters specifies including them under the five percent payment plan. To make that adjustment, by statute, two thirds of the full board must agree to allow it.

That’s where the pending agreement hit a snag. Township Supervisor Karyn Miller was absent from the meeting which led to uncertainty, including among legal advisors, on whether a full board meant those present at the meeting or all seven board members.

Clerk Kim Courts, who ran the meeting in Miller’s absence, said they would follow the advice of attorney Steve Shultz to proceed with a vote of members present.

After rejecting the hard cap exemption in a 3-3 vote, some board members questioned if the tentative agreement was still viable because it included the health care provision.

Courts asked Jason McClanahan, the firefighters’ representative who was present, if he needed to take the document back to his membership.

McClanahan responded that the agreement had been approved and signed by union members in good faith.

“We were led to believe that this contract would be passed with the way it is written right now,’’ he said, noting that the agreement had been reached between Supervisor Miller and the firefighters.

Trustee Belenda Parker moved to postpone voting on the agreement, saying she did not know why it was included since the township board had already approved the employee health care plan.

“This should not have been on the table during negotiations,’’ she said. “It should not be a part of the TA (tentative agreement) now … You have to stay at the hard cap.”

She suggested that McClanahan go back to union members to make sure they still approved of the agreement without the hard cap exemption.

At its Jan. 9 meeting, the board voted 3-3 against the fire fighters contract which had been drawn up after 14 hours of negotiation with a mediator and would be in effect through 2013. Dissenting trustees did not give reasons for denial last time, except Kasle who said he voted against it because he thought it was too expensive considering severe revenue shortages the township is facing over the next few years,

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