The Arbitration Process

Oklahoma_City_Municipal_Building_2012

I wanted to offer a short explanation about the arbitration process.

When the contract negotiation process stalls, firefighters and municipalities have to submit their Last Best Offer (LBO) to an independent arbitrator. That arbitrator must pick one or the other, and cannot blend the offers.

If the city’s LBO is chosen by the arbitrator, it becomes final and binding. However, if the arbitrator sides with the firefighters, the city can then take the decision to a vote of the people. This year, the arbitrator sided with the Oklahoma City Firefighters, and even pointed out that city leaders used “fuzzy” math.

Firefighters asked for no raise, and agreed to take $440 less than every other city employee for health insurance. Still, the city council requested a special election because they want to take more.

The fact is that the Firefighters LBO was cheaper, and that is why the arbitrator selected it. The city’s offer would call for hiring 9 new civilian dispatchers at a cost of 500k dollars, while keeping all of the current dispatchers at their current rate of pay. That is obviously a cost increase for the city.

The city claims the deletion of an overtime policy would save them about 800k, therefore, both issues together would save them about $300,000. The firefighters LBO would save the city $400,000 in insurance payments. This is an opportunity for city leaders to take advantage of firefighters, and we certainly do not understand their motives.

We’ll continue the conversation as this issue progresses toward the Jan. 10 election.

Scott Van Horn, President, Local 157

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