Hobart firefighters union, mayor at odds over location for meetings, attendance

2013-03-31T20:05:00Z 2013-06-11T14:43:03Z Hobart firefighters union, mayor at odds over location for meetings, attendanceDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | Hobart Professional Firefighter Local 1641 meetings have been held at Fire House No. 1 since 1966, local fire officials said.

That can no longer be the case following a directive issued earlier this year by Mayor Brian Snedecor.

"I'd be glad to provide a meeting space for their meetings, but I didn't feel it was appropriate to have the meetings in the firehouses," Snedecor said.

Union President Tom Castle said the directive by the mayor is an "obvious" form of retaliation against the union.

"It's a retaliation against something. It's an attempt to union bust and well thought out," Castle said.

In addition to not allowing union meetings to be held at any of the Hobart fire stations, the directive from Snedecor also states any personnel wishing to attend a union meeting must do so while off duty.

Snedecor said he issued that part of the directive because he doesn't want on-duty firefighters to vacate their fire house for a nonwork- related meeting.

"It doesn't fare well because they're supposed to be at the station," Snedecor said.

In addition, many on-duty firefighters may not have wanted to attend a union meeting but had no choice.

"I don't want them to feel pressured to attend a meeting," Snedecor said.

There may be occasions when an issue is pressing enough so that attendance at a meeting by an on-duty union official is warranted, Snedecor said.

"If it's an important matter and the union chief asks the fire chief for permission then I understand," Snedecor said.

Since the directive by Snedecor, union meetings have been held at the VFW in Hobart, Castle said.

Attendance, since the mayor's directive, has been low, because many who might come to meeting are on duty.

"By taking the meetings out of the station it's a way to hamper our business," Castle said.

Snedecor denies his directive was anti-union.

"I'm not anti-union. I'm a union guy myself. ... I want to support the union and I want to work with the unions," Snedecor said.

Castle said he and Snedecor have always gotten along both professionally and personally.

He puts the blame on Fire Chief Brian Taylor.

"For some reason this chief is intentionally driving a wedge between the mayor and and the union leadership, including myself and my board," Castle said.

Taylor said that's not the case.

 "There is no reason or benefit to do such a thing. In fact, I believe the mayor's door has always been open. My staff and I continue to work with the mayor and city administration to do what's best for the entire city overall considering budget restraints," Taylor said.

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