Ruling: Covington Did Not Engage in Unfair Labor Practices
A ruling has come down following a hearing at Covington City Hall in April in which Covington firefighters union Local 38 accused the City of engaging in unfair labor practices as the two sides sought to agree to a new collective bargaining contract. Hearing Officer Susan Durant from the Officer of Attorney General Jack Conway has ruled that the City of Covington did not engage in unfair labor practices. According to the ruling handed down Tuesday and obtained by The River City News Thursday, "It is hereby recommended that a final order dismissing as unproven the charges against the City of Covington for unfair labor practices under KRS. 345.070 and dismissing for lack of jurisdiction the charge of breach of the minimum manning Memorandum of Understanding," wrote Durant.
At April's hearing the firefighters union was represented by former Covington Fire Chief Charles "Buddy" Wheatley who is now an attorney while the City was defended by City Solicitor Frank Warnock. The union accused the City of engaging in unfair labor practices by unilaterally changing the number of firefighters that would be on duty on any given day, reducing the number known as "minimum manning" from thirty to twenty-seven. The decision to change the number happened just three months after the City agreed to a minimum manning of thirty through a memorandum of understanding.
The lengthy ruling outlines the timeline that led both sides into City Hall which served as a courtroom that April day and lays out all the findings of fact. It details the back and forth between the city and the union as they tried to reach a compromise on manning and health care costs. In October of 2011, Local 38 filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet charging that the City unilaterally implemented changes to the minimum manning agreement, violated the collective bargaining grievance procedure, and bad faith bargaining. Durant found no basis on any of the charges, stating that the City requested to reopen the memorandum of understanding (MOU) within sixty days of its original signing, that the City's offers wiped out the MOU and never requested a minimum number of firefighters per shift, and that while the City met with unauthorized members of Local 38 those meetings were not considered negotiations.
Durant argues that the charges should be dismissed. City Solicitor Frank Warnock told The River City News that he is pleased with the decision. He explained that the decision now goes to the Labor Cabinet for final order and that each party has the right to take the case to Kenton County Circuit Court and then after that the Court of Appeals.