CALUMET CITY | City officials met in private Tuesday to plot strategy of sorts for dealing with a labor arbitrator who may wind up resolving a dispute about a new contract with firefighters.
The City Council’s finance committee conducted a meeting to discuss the issue, but held almost all of that meeting in closed session.
City Finance Director John Kasperek said the meeting was to give the aldermen and Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush a chance to “go over strategy” for their upcoming dealings with labor arbitrators. The first session is today.
Tuesday’s session began shortly after 8 p.m., and city Clerk Nyota Figgs said, “It’s going to be a long night.”
Kasperek described that session as a “pre-meeting of sorts,” giving arbitrators a chance to familiarize themselves with the background of the negotiations that have failed to reach an agreement between the city and the Association of Firefighters in Illinois local that represents the firefighters.
The most recent contract expired April 30, 2011, and firefighters have worked without a contract since.
While it is not uncommon for time to pass between the expiration of a contract and approval of a new labor agreement, Kasperek conceded that city officials are nowhere close to having an agreement with the firefighters union.
That is what resulted in labor arbitrators being called in.
Following today’s session, formal hearings would be held sometime during the next 60 to 90 days, with a ruling from the arbitrator expected some time after that.
Kasperek said he would hope for a ruling by year’s end, although he could not say definitively when the issue would be resolved.
No negotiation sessions are scheduled between the city and the firefighters local. But Kasperek said that could change.
“Something could always come down and we could actually reach an agreement on our own before an arbitrator rules,” he said.