The union representing Detroit firefighters is the only major employee group without an agreement as part of the city’s bankruptcy proceedings. The Detroit Fire Fighters Association also does not support the city’s Plan of Adjustment. Attorneys representing the union will be in court today arguing against certain provisions in the plan, specifically its 10-year provisions for pensions. The fire fighters and their attorneys maintain this violates collective bargaining rights.
WDET’ Next Chapter Detroit Bankruptcy Blogger Sandra Svoboda talked about the union’s objections with Jeffrey Pegg, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association.
Here’s the audio of that conversation, which is transcribed below.
Sandra Svoboda: Can you give me a summary of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association’s involvement with the bankruptcy case so far?
Jeffrey Pegg: As it pertains to mediation we are constantly trying to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, but for the last year it’s been very difficult. We have been close several times only later to have the rug pulled out from underneath us and say that what we discussed can’t be done now so it’s been very frustrating as someone that’s used to collective bargaining.
SS: Your 850 members are currently working with an expired contact but you’re also negotiating with Jones Day and the city right now as part the bankruptcy proceedings, and is the main issue there future pensions?
JP: It’s future pensions, it’s retiree health care, yes.
SS: One of your objections to the Plan of Adjustment is that it contains ten years of information about contracts, employee costs and also pensions. Can you explain to me a little more on the basis of that objections?
JP: The pension part of it, the hybrid plan, that they put in the POA is for ten years and our objection is that you cannot put a mandatory subject to collective bargaining in bankruptcy pleading for more than the term of the bankruptcy, and that it’s also not a debt of the city currently that they are deciding. It’s a going-forward cost so how can you put in this plan, a going-forward cost that is a mandatory subject to collective bargaining. I believe it’s a really good argument that we have that we’re hopefully successful on.
SS: Why is the fire fighters association the last remaining group to reach some sort of agreement with the city?
JP: Well, in my opinion, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association has been the strongest union in the city since we started. We are not difficult to deal with. We are very reasonable people but we are not just going not just sit there and lay down and agree to terms that disagree with us wholeheartedly. We understand that the current situation in the city and the temperature is that they easily could impose terms on us and that our backs are really against the wall but we have to make sure that we get the best that we can for our members. So that’s my opinion about why we’re last, is that really we are the strongest union in the city and it really I think that’s one of the main reasons why.