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SMPFFA Gains Right to Meet and Confer
Updated On: Feb 28, 2010

Police, firefighters gain right to meet and confer

Police, firefighters gain right to meet and confer
By BRAD ROLLINS - Staff Reporter
Posted: Thursday, Feb 09, 2006 - 04:02:05 pm CST

 

 

The city's police and firefighters associations will represent employees in “meet and confer” negotiations starting this year following their formal recognition by the city council this week.

More than 90 percent of firefighters and 78 percent of police officers signed a petition asking leaders to designate the groups as the exclusive bargaining agents for those departments' rank-and-file employees.

Council members voted unanimously to extend the recognition, but not without some voicing concern that the process could become political and polarizing.

With an eye on Austin where meet and confer was used for years before the law allowed it in most other cities, some members said they feared salary demands could strain the municipal budget.

 

“We have a great relationship with police and firefighters and I don't expect that to change. But things do change,” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said. “...If it gets to the point where we meet with you and you're asking us to make decisions that aren't fair to other employees, it's important for you to know we can undo it.”

The associations' officers said major wage and work condition grievances were not the catalysts for their efforts.

“There aren't issues or concerns we have where we feel we're being treated unfairly,” said Daniel Arredondo, the San Marcos Police Officers Association president. “We just want the opportunity to sit and talk. It doesn't mean we have to agree.”

James Frye, the San Marcos Professional Firefighter Association president, echoed the cooperative tone. He said his group's issues center on “operational and structural” topics such as civil service system under which hiring and promotions are tied to performance on a general aptitude test.

“We just want to take our relationship to the council to the next step,” Frye said. “This is just another avenue of communication.”

Since 1949, it has been illegal for governing bodies to bargain with employee associations or unions. There have long been exceptions for police and fire employees in large cities, but a law passed by the Legislature last year extends the option to smaller departments.

The discussions aren't binding on decision makers but the change does represent something of a modest innovation in a state that has traditionally sought to limit the influence of labor unions, especially in the public arena.

Eleven cities have adopted meet and confer negotiations since Sept. 1, said Frank Sturzl, the Texas Municipal League executive director. He said the system allows communication without the regimented proceedings - and binding arbitration - common to collective bargaining.

“Collective bargaining comes along with the requirement that you must bargain and if you reach an impasse, it gets decided by third party. It's not what I would call a come-let-us-reason approach,” Sturzl said. “This presents an opportunity for employees to sit down with the council and be heard out.”

bradrollins@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2006, San Marcos Daily Record
All rights reserved.

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http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/articles/2006/02/09/news/news1.txt

 
 
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