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Panel reaches three-year pact with firefighters union

Evan Bonsall, city commissioner, city of Marquette

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission this week approved a three-year labor agreement with the Marquette Firefighters Association Local #643.

The commission voted 7-0 to approve the contract, which will require a one-time cost increase of $80,000 due to a conversion from salaried personnel to an hourly rate of pay.

The city sought five key items during contract negotiations with the Firefighters Association: to comply with Michigan’s right-to-work legislation as highlighted in Public Act 349 which became effective for firefighters with a Supreme Court decision in 2018; to clarify how personnel would be paid for hours spent at training; to extend the work period from a seven-day period to a 28-day period; to convert personnel from salary to an hourly rate of pay; and to offer a competitive wage, pension and health insurance package, city documents state.

Both the fire marshal and rental inspector will be eligible for any pay increase beginning in the 2021 fiscal year through the remainder of the contract. This is based on an average of percent pay increases settled by other city bargaining units, city documents state.

Overtime pay based on the new 28-day work period could be as high as $40,000 per year. This can likely be paid out in compensatory time which wouldn’t cost the city any additional expenses for now.

These new costs will require a year-end budget adjustment.

In a separate agenda item on Monday night, the commission voted 7-0 to approve the payment of back wages to Marquette city firefighters for a total of $11,974.36. The payment is from the period of Oct. 28, 2018, to the current day.

The decision comes as a result of the Marquette City Fire Department recently being audited by the Department of Labor for compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, city documents state.

The audit, completed on Feb. 1, concluded that fire personnel are owed back wages over a two-year period ending in October of last year for underpayment of FLSA overtime.

“I think it’s of course unfortunate that this happened but it certainly was not intentional on the part of the city,” Commissioner Evan Bonsall said. “We do just want to apologize to the firefighters who weren’t compensated adequately, but now we’re correcting that and making it whole.

“I think this is why it’s so important that we have strong federal labor laws, why we have collective bargaining rights and I think we all appreciate the work the firefighters do for our community.”

The payment must be made within 30 days, and the commission also approved a corresponding budget adjustment to fall in line with the wage correction.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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