Bach says union firefighter bill remains problematic

June 6, 2013 Updated: June 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Mayor Steve Bach still opposes a firefighter union bill that became law Wednesday despite the watered-down language adopted to appease the governor's concerns.

"To impose potential firefighter collective bargaining on Colorado Springs is deeply disappointing," Bach said in a prepared statement. "This top-down action goes against the direct will of the citizens of Colorado Springs."

But Jeremy Kroto, president of the local union, said the mayor's comments bewilder him.

"If you really look at the bill, it doesn't change the relationship we have with the city," Kroto said. "The mayor has already given us a seat at the table."

Voters in the city have twice defeated ballot measures to allow the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters union to bargain for things like salary and benefits.

Senate Bill 25 mandates that firefighters be included in conversations about equipment and safety, but it does not require the unions to have a say in pay-scales or other benefits.

Bach said the new mandate may force the city to "spend untold amounts in court defending our right to negotiate with our firefighters on our terms."

Kroto said he is grateful to Bach that the union has been involved in the process, but he said without Senate Bill 25 the next mayor could lock firefighters out of important discussions on safety issues.

The bill also provides a way for firefighters to take collective bargaining to a vote of the people, but Colorado Springs is exempt from that process because city ordinance already stipulates the process to put the issue on the ballot.

Some cities, such as Boulder, already allow their unions to have full collective bargaining, but in other cities unions have been barred from speaking to fire chiefs or participating in the political process even off duty.

The Colorado Municipal League also opposes the new law as an infringement of local rights.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement that changes to the legislation he once threatened to veto strike a reasonable balance between local voters deciding the issue of collective bargaining and the inherent need for conversations about safety in a hazardous profession.

Contact Megan Schrader


Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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