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Firefighters Union Rejects Proposed Agreement Approved by City

A proposed agreement approved by the Covington City Commission on Tuesday was rejected by Local 38 of the International Association of Firefighters on Thursday.

The agreement, unanimously approved Tuesday, would have put "Pumper One" (located at Scott Boulevard & Robbins Street) back in service approximately one out of every ten days. It also would have permitted firefighters the opportunity to be promoted, an opportunity taken away last year when nine positions were eliminated from the department (including captain and lieutenant positions).

A request for comment has been made to the leaders of Local 38 and this story will be updated when more comments are available. In the meantime, the union released this statement: "After considerable discussion, the members of Covington Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 38 have voted to reject an agreement settling multiple collective bargaining agreement violations that would have guaranteed promotions and increased salaries.  Accepting the agreement would have limited Local 38's ability to legally restore fire protection staffing to safe levels."

Assistant city manager and city solicitor Frank Warnock, who helped to negotiate the agreement approved Tuesday and rejected Thursday, is disappointed. "Our city manager and the mayor and commissioners have a big picture to look at and it just makes it very difficult to move forward," Warnock said. "In the past, the city generally operated on a forty-nine, fifty million dollar budget but now we operate on a forty-six million dollar budget. It just makes it very challenging."

It was a challenging fiscal outlook that prompted significant cuts in the City of Covington, cuts that included reductions in health care benefits for employees (and new contracts with three labor unions), the elimination of 911 emergency dispatch (now handled by Kenton County), and for the current fiscal year $500,000 budget reductions from several departments, including police and fire.

"I thought it could go either way, to be honest," Warnock said of Local 38's vote. "I was hopeful that we could find some common ground and reach resolution so we could move forward on a number of other issues."

Local 38 filed grievances over the nine positions eliminated, calling it a violation of their contract. Warnock expects that the union will request an administrative hearing before the Covington City Commission. If no resolution is reached there, arbitration is likely to follow.

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