Perrysburg city officials have rejected a state fact-finder’s report released this month that recommended giving firefighters pay increases.
The wage dispute was brought to a fact-finder after the city and the union could not reach an agreement since negotiations began Jan. 27.
The old contract for the 23 Perrysburg union members expired Feb. 12. The next step is for a conciliator to hear the two sides and then, barring a court decision to overturn it, make a legally binding decision, said Don Collins, general counsel to the State Employment Relations Board.
If the city and the union can’t agree on a conciliator, then SERB will appoint one, Mr. Collins added.
Earlier, state-appointed fact-finder Hyman Cohen had recommended Perrysburg firefighters should receive a 2.75 percent pay increase in 2012, 2.5 percent increase in 2013, and 2.5 percent in 2014.
The city of Perrysburg argued firefighters should receive 1.25 percent annual salary increases while the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1331 pushed for 3 percent salary increases from March, 2012, through March, 2014, according to Mr. Cohen’s report.
Mr. Cohen, a lawyer and labor arbitrator from Cleveland, called Perrysburg “an anomaly.”
“…Throughout the recent economic downturn, the city has been able to maintain its current level of services without any significant budgetary changes,” his report said. “…The city acknowledges its ability to pay the Association’s proposed 3 percent increases in each of the three years beginning March 2012. Moreover, the city acknowledges it has eliminated all debt.”
The report concluded that Perrysburg firefighters’ salaries should not be compared other firefighters’ pay in other northwestern Ohio communities, such as Perrysburg Township, Maumee and Bowling Green.
“The city cannot be victimized by its own success. Nor should the wages of the bargaining unit be measured by firefighters of public employers who for various have not done as well as the city,” the report said. Instead, Perrysburg police and fire’s salaries should be compared, because, even though they are represented by different unions, they both do dangerous work and are budgeted and classified under the department of public safety, the report said.
Perrysburg police officers were to receive 1.75 percent pay increases in 2012 and 2013, plus $2,200 lump sum payments.
Between 2006 and 2011, fire fighters’ salaries bumped 16.5 percent while police salaries’ jumped 17 percent in addition to getting lump-sum payments, according to the report.