Home News Local News Roswell firefighters file complaint about delays in negotiations

Roswell firefighters file complaint about delays in negotiations

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Lisa Dunlap Photo The Roswell Professional Firefighters Union has filed a complaint with the Labor Management Relations Board seeking to require the city to return to bargaining talks and other remedies. In this June 2 photo, Roswell fire crews battle a structure fire in the northeast part of the city.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The union representing Roswell firefighters has lodged a complaint against the city for delays in contract negotiations since March.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1249 — also called the Roswell Professional Firefighters Union — filed a “prohibited practices complaint” July 25 with the Labor Management Relations Board, which has scheduled a Sept. 28 meeting about the issue.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said in an email that the meeting is expected to establish a timeline for resolving the issues brought up in the complaint.

According to the filing signed by Scott Maxwell, chief negotiator with the union, bargaining talks that began in October 2017 “stalled” after a meeting on March 27.

Two attempts since that time to arrange further talks were either not responded to or deferred until the city’s chief negotiator, Dina Holcomb of the Holcomb Law Office in Albuquerque, could speak with a representative of the law firm that advises the union, the complaint alleges. The union filing indicates that the law firm was an internal adviser at that time, not a negotiator.

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“Negotiations have been stalled/non-existent through May, June and July,” the complaint states. “This makes the negotiations for salary increases very difficult due to the fiscal year budget timing for the City of Roswell. The stalling is highly prejudicial to the Union.”

The complaint contends that the city’s actions represent violations of two separate provisions of the city’s Labor Management Relations Ordinance.

The union is requesting that the Labor Management Relations Board order the city to continue talks, require the city to name an administrator to the bargaining committee to ensure timely progress and rule for other remedies, including possibly awarding attorney fees and costs to the union.

In a response filed to the complaint, the city has disputed many of the allegations, indicating that there were several efforts to communications with the union. It has asked that the Labor Management Relations Board dismiss the complaint.

Holloman said that discussions about the specifics of the negotiations are not permitted, but he said negotiations have moved slower than what might have been anticipated because of the financial aspects of the talks.

“Throughout the negotiations, many of the non-economic matters have been resolved,” Holloman said. “There are a couple of economic matters that have required additional research from both sides, which has caused resolution to move slower.”

Holloman said that the Labor Management Relations Board, a neutral party, is the entity determining the timing of its meetings, and it decided to meet in late September after the city had time to respond to the union complaint. The current members of the board are Rich Olson, Pauline Ponce and Scott Douglass.

Holloman explained that the city has been obligated to negotiate with the union since local firefighters voted 57-2 for the union March 13, 2017, and their vote was certified by the board not long after on March 23.

“The parties are in ongoing negotiations with regard to wages, hours and terms of conditions of employment, for which any changes negotiated will occur once the parties reach an agreement that is ratified by the employees and the (City) Council.”

He added, “All sides are working to create an agreement that supports the city and its employees by providing exceptional fire safety to Roswell.”

Requests to speak with the firefighter union negotiator, union representatives or a member of the law firm advising the union were not responded to by press time.

The public meeting before the Labor Management Relations Board is set for 10 a.m, Friday, Sept. 28, at Roswell City Hall, 425 N. Richardson Ave.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.